From the Editor
Science rules against GM
The GM debate ended with a resounding "no" to GM crops on the weight
of scientific evidence. Much of the damning evidence is detailed in the
widely circulated report, The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World,
compiled by an Independent Science Panel of 24 scientists from 7 countries. It
has now received ample corroboration from surprising sources.
The long awaited results of the UK Governments three-year Farm
Scale Evaluations (FSEs), released October 16, showed two of the three GM crops
were harmful to wildlife. The third appeared to do better only because the
conventional crop was sprayed with a deadly pesticide atrazine that Europe had
banned a week earlier. These findings are highly significant, if only because
the FSEs were intentionally restricted in scope, and biased in methodology.
Most culpable, perhaps, is the failure to monitor the stability of the
GM crops. For years, I have challenged the scientific advisory committees on
this issue, only to be met with persistent denial and personal attacks.
Two laboratories in France have recently produced clear evidence that
five out of five commercially approved GM crops were unstable. This invalidates
any safety testing done on the GM crops, and raises continuing safety concerns
as the crops are grown in the field. It is indeed the process of genetic
modification itself that is unsafe.
In the light of all the evidence, the pro-GM scientists advising our
governments ought to be publicly humiliated at the very least, for having
abused science and public trust.
Instead of which, they are among the hundred or so who have the temerity
to write to Tony Blair blaming their defeat on "anti-GM groups" "hi-jacked
meetings" and on "misleading" reports in the press.
Interviewed on the BBC, one of them, Derek Burke said he wanted
"arguments based on evidence" instead of "opinion". He should be reprimanding
himself and his cosignatories on that very point. And how dare he and Chris
Leaver presume to speak on behalf of the "scientific community"? Many
scientists do not share their pro-GM stance, and molecular geneticists are but
a minute minority of all scientists.
If the scientific community is disaffected, as they claim, it is because
scientists like them are unashamedly pushing the corporate agenda, and
compromising all the traditional standards of good science.
The corporations are deserting biotech research as a financial dead-end.
Monsanto is decamping from Europe as losses mount and its downward slide in the
stock market continues.
More importantly, genetic modification has been discredited, and is a
scientific dead-end. It would be a sin for Tony Blair to allow GM crops to be
grown in Britain. It would be adding insult and injury to the scientific
community and the public by continuing to support this line of research at the
expense of many other infinitely more deserving, socially promising and
financially rewarding approaches.
GM crops bad for developing countries
If the effects of GM crops for Canada and the US are bad enough, they
have the potential to be far worse for developing countries. Third World
governments should be wary as the biotech giants, forced out of Europe, are
aggressively targeting their countries. Scientists in Argentina, the third
largest grower of GM crops, are just now discovering the devastating impacts of
GM crops on the health of their children and on their agricultural and natural
A detailed study on flagship projects of corporate giants in African
countries, meanwhile, has pronounced GM crops "irrelevant" for the continent.
All the GM projects showcased by the industry as huge successes for small-scale
African farmers in fact yield much less benefit than can be obtained with
either conventional breeding or agroecology-based techniques, and for just a
tiny fraction of the investment in research.
Environment trumping genes
Another sign that biotech research is going nowhere comes from Nobel
Laureate genome sequencer Sydney Brenner, who has recently called for a new
appraisal of public healthcare instead of going in the direction of the human
genome banks and personalised medicines. There are good reasons for Brenner and
other scientists to break rank with the pro-GM brigade.
Diet is found to affect genetic imprinting, a developing process in
which genes are marked to become silent, resulting in immediate and longer-term
health impacts on the unborn. The malnutrition of teenage mothers with too
little to spend on food is a potential time bomb for the already overstretched
public health service.
On the bright side, while inadequate diet can compromise the health of
the unborn and cause them to become obese as adults, appropriate dietary
supplements may reverse the damage. Obese mice given dietary supplements were
found to give birth to lean, healthy offspring.
Another unexpected burden on public health is coming from assisted
reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization, which are
linked to a range of birth defects, developmental abnormalities and ectopic
pregnancies. Some of the birth defects appear to be due to stresses experienced
by manipulated germ cells and embryos, and are similar to those resulting from
The trend towards turning birth into a medical procedure is also
compromising the health of both mother and infant. It is significant that where
measures have been taken to reverse this trend, as in the Netherlands,
practically all the health indicators have improved.
Dutch precaution keeps Bt crops at bay
The Dutch have the reputation of being the most sensible among
Europeans, and their precautionary safety assessment of GM crops containing the
biopesticide Bt is exemplary. Questions are raised about the effects of Bt
crops on the entire food web, and special consideration is given to the
much smaller size of fields in the Netherlands compared to those in the United
The contrast between safety assessment in the United States and the
Netherlands is like night and day. And still, false reassurances are being
handed out on the lack of Bt-resistance evolving in insect pests.
Life of Gaia
We continue to bring exciting new developments in the on-going paradigm
change in science. SiS review introduces the work of remarkable architect Chris
Alexander who spent a life-time in quest of beautiful architecture, and comes
up with the surprising finding that all nature is alive, even "empty space"
This brings us to the star mini-series, Life of Gaia, dedicated to our
planet earth, who is indeed alive, so we may better appreciate how she lives
and sustains all creatures large and small, that we may learn to dance to the
complex rhythms of her life music without stopping her in her tracks.