Science in Society Archive

Scientists Concerned For Academic Freedom

Open Letter to Premier of Western Australia

Now signed by 104


Dr. Judy Carman, senior scientist working in the field of epidemiology in Australia and awarded a government grant to study the safety of GM feed, has been subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification by individuals associated with the biotech industry, with the clear intention of preventing her from carrying out the research. Political pressure is now being brought to bear on her research by the current Agriculture and Food Minister of Western Australia.

Dr. Carman is not an isolated case. A long string of scientists beginning with Arpad Puszati, Susan Bardocz, Shiv Chopra, Ignacio Chapela, Irina Ermakova, and more has suffered the same attackswhen their research or laboratory findings are deemed unfavourable to thebiotech industry; they have also lost their grants or their jobs as a result.

It is important for scientists to make a stand for real science,and for the right of scientists to do research without being harassed and intimidated, or losing their grants or positions. The public will not be well-served unless this academic freedom to do research independent of industry or the whims of government is guaranteed.

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Comment from Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada

The same or worse is happening all across the world. For instance, a workshop at which I and another scientist were invited last week to discuss the pros and cons of vaccines at the First Nations (Aboriginal) conference in Ottawa was abruptly cancelled, apparently under threat from Health Canada officials. The same is happening with regard to the new consumer protection bills, presently under consideration of the Canadian and US politicians. In June 2009,  I heard of much the same happening during my visit to Australia and New Zealand and, of course, even worse during my last several visits to India.

Comment from Dr. Mira Shiva, India

Thank you so much for sending this letter. Many of us feel extremely agitated about the harassment of independent researchers and scientists whose findings are not in the interest of corporations. We have seen it in the pharmaceutical industry, and witnessed it with regard to food and agriculture.

I am committed to our right to safety and right to information as much as I am disgusted at the misuse of power to block the conduction of pro- public health, public interest research by independents researchers and scientists

I am also deeply concerned about researchers totally changing their conclusions under inducement. For those who have stood up for their research and faced pressures, we offer our deep appreciation and respect, and assurance of our continued solidarity.

Comment from Dr. Allison Bleaney OBE

The integrity of science itself is in doubt if independent objective research cannot be assured.

This is a major issue and of concern to us all; the undermining of the researcher and their work along withthe deliberate policy of the ‘undone science’. Thank you for highlighting it publically.

From: Scientists concerned about academic freedom (see list of signatories below)


Honourable Colin Barnett MEc MLA
Government of Western Australia
24th Floor, Governor Stirling Tower,
197 St Georges Terrace
WA 6000


The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House

Hon Terrry Redman MLA
Minister, Dept of Agriculture and Food
Government of Western Australia
3 Baron-Hay Court
South Perth
WA 6151

Professor Mike Daube
President, Public Health Association of Australia
Keep Australia Beautiful Building
Units 2 & 3, 20 Napier Close
Deakin ACT 2600

Dr. Robert Williamson, AO, Ph.D, Hon MK (Turku), FAA, FRCPath, FRS
Australian Academy of Science
Ian Potter House
Gordon Street
Canberra 2601

The Hon Tony B
Minster for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Parliament House
Canberra ACT2600

Dear Mr. Barnett,

In 2005, the Government of Western Australia awarded a research grant worth $92,000 to researchers at theInstitute of Health and Environmental Research, nowbased in Adelaide, Southern Australia [1]. In announcing it, the then Agriculture Minister, Kim Chance, said that "the WA Government will fund an independent long-term animal feeding trial to gain data on the safety or otherwise of GM food crops".

Far from welcoming the study, the biotech industry sought to block it, initially by writing to the WA government in an effort to get the government to reverse its funding decision, then by either refusing to supply GM crops to the research team or placing such onerous conditions upon the supply of the GM crops that the researchers could not sign up to the conditions [2]. In addition, the lead scientist has been subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification and harassment by commercial interests connected with the biotech industry.

The present Minister of Agriculture, Terry Redman, is now interfering in the research by demanding details about the location of the study laboratories, its research protocols and its progress to date. It is hard to see any legitimate reason for this interference. Information about the procedures was available when the grant was proposed, and it is most unusual for a government or indeed anyone else to demand to see the results of work that is not yet completed. The Minister’s hostility to the line of research is well known from when he was in opposition; he is wrong to use his current position to obstruct science which was commissioned before he took office.

It is wrong, though perhaps not surprising, that the biotechnology industry should be seeking to obstruct research into the safety of what they produce [3], and promoting the vilification and harassment of any scientist conducting such research [4]. It is indefensible for a government to do the same. We call on the Government of Western Australia to stop this unprecedented interference with the research it has commissioned and to ensure that the project will proceed unhindered. We also call on the Government of Australia to require biotechnology companies to make available to independent researchers the material they need for their work.

The citizens of Australia, like those of other countries, will not be well served unless academic freedom is guaranteed for scientists to work independently of biotechnology companies or the whims of governments [5]. It is not possible to take proper decisions on GMOs if the only evidence on which to base those decisions comes from scientists who work for or are chosen by the biotechnology industry.


1. “Long term feeding trials funded by WA to run in SA” Wednesday, November 30, 2005’

Jenifer Eliot in The West Australian, November 28, 2005, reports that the study will be by South Australia's Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER),

2. Pro-GM scientists, some paid by biotech companies have been aiding and abetting in the harassment and vilification of independent scientists and researchers of IHER see Letter from 12 scientists to the Premier of Western Australia, The HonDr Geoff Gallop, BEc MA MPhil DPhil MLA 5  December 2005,; also Food Safety Western Australia Style: A Note from Ian Edwards,  25 June 2007,

 “Call for inquiry into GM feed study funding”, Colin Bettles, Farm Weekly, Australia, 12 Nov 2009,

3. The biotech companies are notorious for their attempt to block research deemed unfavourable to GMOs. The following statement was submitted in February 2009 to the US Environmental protection Agency (EPA) by scientists who had been invited to submit comments on a meeting to discuss two new BM crops. They were protesting the ‘technology/stewardship agreements’ they have to sign, which inhibit them from doing research for the public good. As a result “no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology.” We are not aware that any of the 26 is opposed in principle to GM crops.

See; also the article by Andrew Pollack, New York Times, 20 February 2009,

And “GM Research Blocking GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans Scientific Tests Must Be Approved by Industry First”, by F. William Engdahl, Global Research, July 29, 2009

“Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research? Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops. That restriction must end” By The Editors, August 2009 Scientific American Magazine,

4. Harassment of independent researchers by pro-GM scientists is rife and takes place in the pages of ‘learned’ journals that  have become effectively trade magazines

What is Nature Biotechnology good for? The Bioscience Resource Project, 4 December 2007,

The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science - Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity by Don Lotter Int. Jrnl. of Soc. of Agr. & Food, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 50-68,

Systematic bias in favour of no adverse impacts from GM feed, ISIS, 7 January 2008,

Marshall, A. (2007) Nature Biotechnology 25: pp 981-98;

Heinemann, JA and Traavik, T, letter, Nature Biotechnology 25 (12), p1356,;;;

Ironically the same learned journals are decrying the vilification of independent researchers by pro-GM scientists. See “GM crops: Battlefield” by Emily Waltz, Nature 2009, 461, 27-32,

5. On academic freedom, the Australian Academy of Science wrote as follows, in a submission to a Senate Committee Inquiry into academic freedom.

“1. Science makes the most significant advances in an atmosphere of free and critical   discussion. Therefore, academic freedom is of crucial importance, particularly in research at universities, institutes and CSIRO.

2. Governments and their representatives have a responsibility to set general research priorities on behalf of their citizens. However, it is inappropriate for governments and their representatives to interfere with scientific peer review processes or with details of academic debate. That is the role of the academic sector.

3. In very rare cases, it may be appropriate for government to implement ‘reserve powers’ to direct research. This may be the case with some research that has security implications. However, it is inappropriate for governments and their representatives to interfere in genuine academic debate and to intervene with the grant processes of the ARC, NHMRC or CSIRO." (Letter signed by Professor Philip W. Kuchel, FAA, Secretary, Science Policy)


1. Prof. E A Abergel, Department of International Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada

2. Prof. Miguel A Altieri, ESPM, University of California, Berkeley. USA

3. Prof. Gregorio Álvaro, Chemical Engineering, Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain

4. Dr Michael Antoniou, Head of Nuclear Biology Group, King’s College London School of Medicine, UK

5. Dr. Alexander Baranoff,  Institute of Developmental Biology, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia

6. Dr. Barbara Ann Barrett, Scientists for Global Responsibility, UK

7. Alisa Battaglia, Weston, Florida,USA

8. Dr. Henry A. Becker, Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada

9. Michael Bending,, Sydney, Australia

10. Claire Bleakley, Pigeon Bush, Featherston, New Zealand

11. Dr. Allison Bleaney OBE, Tasmanina, Australia

12. Adam Breasley, Graduate Student Human Rights, Australian Catholic University, North Sydney, Australia

13. Christopher Brewster, Operations and Information Management Group, Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK

14. Steffan Browning, Spokesperson, Soil & Health Association of New Zealand, Blenheim, New Zealand

15. Prof. Marcello Buiatti, Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Florence, Italy

16. Paul de Burgh-Day, Lorinna, Tasmania, Australia

17. Dr. Shiv Chopra, Ex-Health Canada, author of Corrupt to the Core, Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower, Canada

18. Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Dhaka 1205, Bangladesh

19. Prof. Bert Christie, Retired Agriculture and AGri-Food Canada, Prince Edward Island, Canada

20. Javier M Claparols, Director, Ecological Society of the Philippines, IUCN-Member,
IUCN-CEESP, Makati City, Philippines

21. Prof.  Ann Clark, Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Canada

22. S. Loren Cole Ph.D., Chairman & CEO, Inquiring Systems, Inc.

23. Stephanie Costa, Calgary, AB, Canada

24. Dr. Alain Cuerner, Institute de Recherche en Biologie Vėgėtale, University of Montreal, Canada

25. Prof. Joe Cummins, Emeritus Prof. of Genetics, University of Western Ontario, Canada

26. Dr. Jose L. Domingo, Professor of Toxicology, Laboratory of Toxicology and Environmental Health School of Medicine, “Rovira i Virgili” University,
Catalonia, Spain

27. Dr. Elvira Dommisse, former GM researcher now advocate of organics, Soil & Health National Council, New Zealand

28. Charles Drace, Member Canterbury Branch, Royal Society of New Zealand, New Zealand

29. Dr. Irina Ermakova, Russian Academy of Sciences institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, Moscow, Russia

30. Dr. Stanley WB Ewen, Consultant Pathologist, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, UK

31. Dr. Alan Fredeen, Nova Scotia, Canada

32. Dr. Rubén Hugo Freije, Professor of Environmental Chemistry, Universidad nacional del Sur, Buenos Aires, Argentina

33. Maheswar Ghimire, Sundhara, Kathmandu, Nepal

34. Prof. Adrian Gibbs FAA, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australia

35. Mike Godfrey MBBS, retired medical practitioner and researcher, New Zealand

36. Dr. Vernica Griffin M.Sc. Ph.D., Australia

37. Odette Grille, Translator, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

38. Prof. David Healy MD FRCPsych, Cardiff University, UK

39. Wil Heidt, Vice President, Soil Association of South Australia, Australia

40. Dr.  Jack A. Heinemann, Director INBI, Prof. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

41. Dr. Hans R Herren, President,  Millennium Institute, Co-Chair IAASTD, Arlington, VA, USA

42. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Director, Institute of Science in Society, London, UK

43. Prof. Vyvyan Howard MB. ChB. PhD. FRCPath, Biomedical Science Research Institute,  Ulster University, Northern Ireland, UK

44. Barbara Huning MA LP, Psychologist, Nature-Centered Counseling and Education,

Caledonia, Minnesota USA

45. Alan Hunter, Author of Curing Food Allergies, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

46. Dr. Eva Jablonka, The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University, Israel

47. Steven Jennings, electronics engineer, Bruggen, Germany

48. Dr. Brian John, Retired Lecturer in Geography, University of Durham, UK

49. Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director, Center for Food Safety, Washington DC, USA

50. David King MIET, FIENZ, Retired power engineer, New Zealand

51. Prof. Sheldon Krimsky, Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning School of Arts & Sciences, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, School of Medicine, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA

52. Leib Krut, Adjunct Professor, St. Louis University, USA

53. Dr. Marion Lamb, formerly Senior Lecturer in Biology, Birbeck College, London, UK

54. Nadège Le Mabec, Combat Monsanto Campaigner, France

55. Prof. Li Kang-min, Emeritus Professor, Asian Pacific Regional Research & Training Center for Integrated Fish Farming FFRC, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, China

56. Glenda Lindsay, Community Food Systems network volunteer, Melbourne, Australia

57. Sky McCain, Wholesome Food Association Ltd, UK

58. Dennis McCalla, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

59. Nadia McLaren, Adelaide, South Australia

60. Herminio Martins, Emeritus Fellow, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK

61. Jonathan Matthews, GMWatch, LobbyWatch, UK

62. Prof. Joan Mencher, Emerita Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College of CUNY and CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA

63. Dr. Eva Novotny, retired, formerly Research Associate in Astronomy, Cambridge University,  UK

64. Claire O’Connor, Managing Director, Manna Organic Store, Kerry, Ireland

65. Dr. Jose Ramon Olarieta, Lecturer in Soil Science, Universitat de Lleida, Spain

66. H Osburn, Redmond, WA, Australia

67. T Osburn, Redmond, WA, Australia

68. Prof. Dr. ER Oskov OBE FRSE, Director of International Feed Resource Unit, Macaulay Land Use Institute, UK

69. Dr. David Packham, Materials Research Centre, University of Bath, UK

70. John Parfitt, Bristol, UK

71. Dr Julio E. Perez, Instituto Oceanografico, Universidad de Oriente, Cumana, Venezuela

72. Dr. Michel Pimbert, Director, Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Programme, IIED, London, UK

73. Charmaine Porter, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

74. Dr. Naheeda Portocarero, Animal nutritionist, Maesyronen Farmhouse, Glasbury-on-Wye, UK

75. Dr Paulo C. M. Ramos, Environment Analyst, ICMBIO, Brasilia National Park, Brazil

76. Malcolm Rands, Global CEO, EcoStore, New Zealand

77. Prof. Leda Raptis, Dept of Microbiology and Immunology, Dept of Pathology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

78. Claire Robinson, GMWatch, Spinprofiles, UK

79. Aruna Rodrigues, Sunray Harvesters, India

80. Hugh Rooney, Lecturer  in Reflexology, Edinburgh Napier University, UK

81. Dr. Barry T Rubin, Davis Rubin Associates Ltd, Member of Scientists for Global Responsibility, UK

82. Prof. Peter Saunders, Emeritus Prof. of Applied Mathematics, King’s College, London, UK

83. Prof. David Schubert, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla Ca, USA

84. Prof. David Shearman, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide, Australia.

85. Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini, President of Scientific Council of CRIIGEN, Risk Pole Co-Director – CNRS-MRSH, University of Caen, France

86. Dr Mira Shiva M.D, Director Initiative for Health, Equity & Society, Chairperson Consumer Education safety of Food & Medicine South Asian Focal Point, International Peoples Health Council, NewDelhi, India

87. Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, Recipient of Right Livelihood Award, New Delhi, India

88. Gayle Boehm-Smith Psy. D., retired Pyschologist, WestCliffe, Co, USA

89. Stephen Solomon, Grindelwald, Tasmania, Australia

90. Jaan Suurkula M.D., Chairman of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Applications of Science and Technology (PSRAST)

91. Dr. Maarten Stapper, FALAST, BioLogic AgFood, Beconnen ACT, Australia

92. Dr. David Suzuki, Emeritus professor, Sustainable Development Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Canada

93. Dr. Roger Taylor, retired Reader in Immunology, University of Bristol, UK

94. Dr. Enric Tello, Professor of Economic History and Institutions, Head of the Dept. of Economic History and Institutions at the Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

95. Dr. Terje Traavik, Scientific Director,  GenØk-Centre for Biosafety, Norway

96. Dr David J. Tyler, MInstP, ACFI., Reader, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

97. Dr. Peter Weish Univ. Doz, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

98. David Werner, Health Wrights, Palo Alto, California, USA

99. Chris Wheeler, past President, Soil & Health Association of New Zealand, Nelson, New Zealand

100. Prof. Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Sunderland, UK

101. Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility, UK

102. Jeanette Fitzsimons, Member of the New Zealand Parliament

103. Dr Katherine G Begg, Centre for Environmental Change and Sustainability. School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, UK

104. Peter Crowe, North Beach, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Article first published 20/11/09

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There are 8 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Charmaine Porter Comment left 28th November 2009 22:10:34
My concern is that independent testing is necessary to get to the truth. If scientists are intimidated by the vested interests it is the Australian public who will suffer if there are health problems with the ingestion of GM foods. It took a very long time for the truth about tobacco smoking - that it was a health hazard -to be accepted due to the tobacco companies intimidation and scare tactics and massive advertising campaigns to convince the public that it was ok to smoke cigarettes. There are very big vested interests in promoting GM food production and they will stop at nothing to increase their profits.

mike boddington Comment left 16th January 2010 23:11:28
In the 'Background' section at the start of this posting you say 'It is important for scientists to make a stand for real science'and 'The public will not be well-served unless this academic freedom to do research independent of industry or the whims of government is guaranteed.' It is not simply 'important': it is vital, critical, abslutely necessary. The public will not simply be 'not well-served' but extremely badly served - as they increasingly are now.

MICHAEL T. CLARJEN-ARCONADA Comment left 21st November 2009 10:10:38
Any manipulation, restriction, deception, harrasment-vilification of independent scientists, and/or unilateral control of research activities by the biotech and pharmaceutical industries (and/or any kind of polluter industries) must be put to an end. The extensive use of the court system, through legal suits (demanding damages and compensation) must be utilized by socially conscious groups and communities organized optimally for high levels of efficacy (obtaining decisive results where it hurts them most = the pocketbook). Top-notch legal teams must be assembled at once. Let us appeal to the Law Schools throughout the finest Universities worldwide and the finest Law firms on planet earth, in order to form these surveillance-ready to act teams. They must operate on an ongoing basis. Let us appeal to the real altruists (including those who have great abundance of means) of this world. Where are they, this is the time to take decisive action. Let us build a new Humanity through the implementation of truly Ecological Communities in order to regenerate Planet Earth and the human being. Let us create those foundational cells. Dr. Michael T. Clarjen-Arconada AQUA TERRA MAGNA PROJECT Cerro del Sol Ecological communities

Jaan Suurküla Comment left 22nd November 2009 00:12:26
In 2000 I pointed out that developments in the field of genetic engineering indicate that we are entering a "pseudo-scientific world order" where the interests of the industry and not safety considerations dictate what products mankind and the environment are allowed to be exposed to, see The successful and blatant suppression of the truth about the safety of genetic engineering seems to have inspired the multinationals to globally expand their suppression and distortion of the truth to other fields, including for example mobile phone safety and the safety of influenza vaccination. Jaan Suurküla, M.D. Chairman of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST)

Brenda Toso Comment left 21st November 2009 10:10:01
More and more fundamental freedoms are being lost to impose restrictions and force feed the people for profit and control.

Odette Grille Comment left 21st November 2009 10:10:57
What is the use of research if mercantile interests bias it ? O

Jeanette Fitzsimons Comment left 11th January 2010 21:09:56
I am not a scientist, but a member of the New Zealand Parliament for the last 13 years who relies on accurate and balanced science to make policy decisions. I have previously taught at Auckland University and I know how precious academic freedom is and am very concerned to hear of the interference with Dr Carman's work. She works in an area that is highly contentious with strong industry advocates and strong public concerns. It is vital that all the science be publicly available and that results not be influenced by political or business considerations.

Motivación personal Comment left 22nd January 2012 10:10:11
this a very important event because knowledge has no frontiers for all mankind know this very well all the scientists who made ​​great contributions to science..