Science in Society Archive

Letter in Support of Citizens’ Initiative for GM-Free Nijmegen


Municipal Council of Nijmegen
PO Box 9105
6500 HG Nijmegen


Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Institute of Science in Society

8 June 2011

Dear Municipal Council of Nijmegen,

I write in support of the Nijmegen citizens’ initiative to declare Nijmegen GM-free on behalf of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to reclaiming science for the public good.

As part of the work of ISIS, and also as a member on the roster of scientific experts of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, I and my colleagues have been monitoring and reviewing extensive scientific literature and empirical evidence on genetically modified (GM) crops and livestock since 1994.

It has been widely recognized since the 1970s that genetic engineering is inherently hazardous because it greatly enhances horizontal gene transfer and recombination, a main route to creating new pathogens in nature. That was why genetic engineering experiments were strictly controlled and contained in the laboratory well into the 1980s.

When genetic modification of crops began, all caution was thrown to the wind. GM crops were released freely into the environment and considered ‘safe’ a priori, whereas they are even less safe than genetic engineering microbes in many respects. Genetic modification of higher plants and animals – as opposed to microbes - is unreliable and uncontrollable, thereby introducing the further risks of unpredictable effects in the GMOs that can impact adversely on health and the environment. In addition, the foreign genes transferred are either biopesticides poisonous to a whole range of non-target organisms, including humans and livestock, or genes making crops tolerant to toxic herbicides that thereby enter our food chain, with disastrous effects. All these hazards have been confirmed in research carried out by scientists independent of the industry: feeding trials have resulted in unexplained deaths, liver and kidney toxicities, infertility, stunting, adverse immune reactions, and birth defects. GM crops now grown in hundreds of millions of hectares worldwide have brought new pests, and new diseases in crops and livestock.

Unfortunately, our national and international regulators have persistently ignored and dismissed damning evidence against the safety of GMOs, and worse, colluding with industry to manipulate science to promote GMOs. Worst of all, honest scientists are being victimized, and often by their own academic institutions that should be protecting and defending them.

Academic science is in danger of losing all public trust, and not just in the field of GMOs. The European Assembly, in its recent resolution calling for lower exposure limits to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields associated with mobile phones, highlighted the need for “genuine independence” of scientific research and expertise. It noted “clear parallels with other current issues, such as licensing of medication, chemical pesticides, heavy metals or genetically modified organisms.”

Finally, a growing scientific consensus now see the need to replace industrial, fossil-fuel intensive agriculture with organic, agro-ecological farming in order to save the climate and feed the world. This is all the more urgent in view of the current world food crisis that has triggered the riots and political instability in North Africa and the Middle East, and spreading to the rest of Africa, Latin America, and some fear, soon to Europe.

In conclusion, the local government of Nijmegen is most fortunate in having such popular support to go GM-free, and can now take the lead in making the right decisions for the country, and ultimately for the world at large.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

For Institute of Science in Society

Article first published 13/06/11

Got something to say about this page? Comment

Comment on this article

Comments may be published. All comments are moderated. Name and email details are required.

Email address:
Your comments:
Anti spam question:
How many legs on a tripod?

There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Don Pearce Comment left 14th June 2011 02:02:23
Well said ISIS, i would wish that this could see the light of day in the Main Stream Media all over the world. But i am not holding my breath.

Rory Short Comment left 14th June 2011 04:04:54
I like it. I hope they are successful