Science in Society Archive

Science in Society #17 - Winter 2002

The only radical science magazine on Earth

Science in Society 17 cover


From the Editor
African Lights
African Consumer Leaders Support Zambia
"Zambia Will Feed Herself From Now On"
Ethiopia's Own Agriculture
Fields of Influence
Electromagnetic Fields Double Leukaemia Risks*
Mobile Phones & Cancer*
Non-Thermal Effects*
The Excluded Biology*
Science Engineering Life & Mind
Engineering Life & Mind*
Hands Off Vitamins & Herbs*
Drugs Trial or Drugs Hype?*
Biosafety Alerts
Atrazine Poisoning Worse than Suspected*
Risks of Edible Transgenic Vaccines*
Genes in Chloroplasts Not "Environmentally Friendly"*
Gene Therapy's First Cancer Victim*
Safe Gene Therapy?*
The 'National GM Debate'
"Do Not Let Our Nightmare Become Yours"
I-SIS' Challenge Unanswered
Blair's GM Strategy Unit Ill-Advised
British Doctors Say "Stop GM Crop Trials"
Rethinking Health
Homeopathy is Nanopharmacology*
I-SIS Review
Overriding Passion
Rethinking Science
Sciencing with Love*
Another Knowledge, Another World

From the Editor

Happy New Year! Thanks to your support, we are growing and getting better, we hope. Keep sending comments and suggestions. Renew your subscriptions and tell your friends about us.

"Africa is waking up"

Zambia reaffirmed her rejection of GM maize-aid as famine looms and despite strong pressures from the US and certain UN agencies. But the rest of the world strongly supports her stance. African consumer leaders produced a ‘Lusaka Declaration’ after a stormy 3-day conference, rejecting both GM technology and patents on genetic resources for food and agriculture, affirming that African countries can address food security themselves.

An exclusive interview with Zambia’s agriculture minister, Mundia Sikatana, gave grounds for believing "Zambia will feed herself from now on". Zambia has enough surplus food within the country to alleviate the famine, but lacks money to purchase and good roads to distribute the food. The government has started to purchase and distribute food within the country and to address longer-term solutions to food security.

Zambia’s problems and solutions may be quite general to African countries, including Ethiopia, now sadly, hit once again by severe droughts and famine. But Ethiopian farmers are also busy recovering their traditional crops and farming practices that have effectively shielded them from famine before these crops were displaced by inappropriate varieties.

There are grounds for optimism as African countries are finding their own feet again, and the whole world is standing with Africa.

Mobile phones and cancer

The current debate over the health hazards of mobile phones is a continuation of the one over electromagnetic fields from power lines and other electrical installations in the environment that goes back to the 1970s and before.

The epidemiological data are now clearly indicating risks of cancer, and laboratory experiments are giving corroborating molecular evidence. The current exposure standards are set far too high to protect workers and the public. Yet, successive official reports still fail to give firm recommendations because there is said to be "no known biological mechanisms". How can fields that don’t cause burns, or are so weak that they are below the threshold of random molecular fluctuations, have any effects?

We bring you the inside story of how bad mechanistic biology lies at the centre of the controversy, and how a new biology that can account for those effects has been systematically ignored and excluded from mainstream discourse.

Science engineering life and mind

The power lines and mobile phones debate bears too much resemblance to the debate over genetic engineering. The "academic-industrial-military complex" has matured with gene biotechnology. It is shaping every aspect of our lives, beginning with the kind of science and scientific research that gets done and gets reported.

Among the latest outrage is the attempt to make vitamins and affordable traditional herbal medicines illegal in Europe. This has provoked unprecedented protest. Join in.

Pharmaceutical companies have long been accused of manipulating results of clinical trials and controlling the experimental design. Now, advertising agencies are commissioning their own trials, and possibly hyping the drugs long before they are proven safe or effective. So watch out.

The great "National GM Debate"

Britain’s ‘National GM debate’ has turned into a farce. The ‘Economic Review’ was an excuse to hype the (still) ‘potential benefits’ of GM when its failures had become blindingly obvious.

The ‘Science Review’ Panel is stacked with pro-GM molecular geneticists leaving little hope that critical evidence such as genetic instability of GMOs and horizontal gene transfer will get debated.

The head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), John Krebs, is in dispute with environment minister Michael Meacher over the benefits of organic agriculture. Krebs is insisting on his ‘independence’, and has persisted in attacking organic agriculture, completely ignoring the copious evidence of its successes in stark contrast to the failures of GM crops, which Krebs and others in the scientific establishment are also ignoring.

The government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment has just issued its report on the public hearing over the GM maize Chardon LL, insisting again, that there is no evidence of harm; despite the stacks of evidence submitted by independent scientists and members of the public.

Risks of GM now undeniable

The British Medical Association (BMA), with a membership of over 120,000 and representing more than 80% of British doctors, called for the GM crop trials in Scotland to be stopped immediately on grounds of safety.

The FSA has underestimated and misrepresented the risks of horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA, even in its own commissioned research. We have sent them detailed scientific criticisms, which remain unanswered to this day.

Among the hazards of transgenic DNA is cancer resulting from the random insertion of transgenic DNA into the cell’s genome. This prediction has unfortunately become reality. Gene therapy has claimed its first cancer victim. But the scientific establishment has yet to acknowledge that other exposures to transgenic DNA, as in GM food, GM dust and pollen, all carry the same risks.

We have also warned repeatedly against engineering food crops to produce vaccines, drugs and industrial chemicals. The United States has approved more than 300 field trials, and the inevitable contamination of neighbouring crops has now been uncovered. The extent of contamination of our soil, air and water remains unknown.

The risks of GM are now undeniable. It is simply wrong to say, "there is no evidence of harm". On the contrary, there is already reasonable suspicion of harm, at the very least. This requires all GMOs to be withdrawn in accordance with the precautionary principle, which is what the BMA is demanding.

And that’s not all. North American farmers who have grown GM crops came to Britain to plead with British farmers, "Do not let our nightmare become yours."

Rethinking health and science

A lot of our present woes stem from the mechanistic bias of mainstream science and our inability to see nature whole. Read on to find what’s on offer: homeopathy as nanopharmacology, the overriding passion of D.H. Lawrence to be "within himself the whole of the human species", and how to "science with love".

Article first published

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