ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

2 November 2001

STOTT THE "VOICE OF REASON" FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN!/BRITAIN'S MOST PROLIFIC PRO-GE HACK

2 fairytales - the second from Vic Robertson, the most prolific pro-GE/anti-organic journalist in Britain. Vic pumps the Scottish press full of this sort of stuff and why does it so often sound like the Prakash list rerouted via the University of Edinburgh?

"Monsanto and other leading GM exponents have caught their second wind to launch a more considered attack on public sense and sensibility in accepting the products of this new - well 20-30-year-old - technology.

Behind them they have gathered millions of dollars of worth of scientific investigation to show that there is not a scintilla of evidence of ill health - physical or mental - that can be attributed to GM foods; that far from damaging the environment, it can actually enhance diversity; and that it has a positive role in helping overcome world hunger."

Odd that we missed all that evidence providing "not a scintilla of evidence of ill health".

For a comprehensive review of the paucity of any research into the health effects of GM foods see:
http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/pusztai.html

As Pusztai notes, "there are many opinions but scarce data on the potential health risks of GM food crops, even though these should have been tested for and eliminated before their introduction. Our present data base is woefully inadequate. Moreover, the scientific quality of what has been published is, in most instances not up to expected standards."

And, "novel toxicological/nutritional methods are urgently needed to screen for harmful consequences on human/animal health and to pinpoint these before allowing a GM crop into the food chain."

Claims of a clean bill of health on the basis of a few years consumption by an unsuspecting public are of course just silly. To put this into context, the link between smoking and ill health took some 30 years to establish and was still disputed by the industry for decades more. There have as yet been no epidemiological studies on GM food consumption and no such credible studies are even pending.

Strange too how we missed all Vic's evidence proving enhanced diversity and a GE solution to world hunger.

Vic quoted a biotech scientist claiming research proving GM a beneficial technology, enhancing biodiversity etc, once before but when we checked it out it turned out:

ï    not to be from the source he claimed;
ï    not to be independent research in the way he implied; and
ï    not to contain any evidence for any wildlife benefits!
[ see http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/false.htm].

Here Vic wisely keeps his sources to himself.

Then there's Pants on Fire winner Prof Philip Stott (item 1) with this indictment of the British public school system:

"The students had, some for the first time, been allowed to hear the voice of reason, sound scientific argument, and down-to-earth practical farming.

This experience has been reinforced many times in schools where I have spoken to the oldest students, including at some of the most famous schools in England, such as Eton and Harrow. The pupils... do not seem, in any way, to have been duped by the Green hype and rhetoric so unthinkingly peddled day in and day out by our more politically correct media."

For more cherries from the voice of America (sorry, 'voice of reason') see:
http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/pants4.htm

***

Survey Says: We Don’t Believe the Hype

By: Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography
http://www.techcentralstation.com/EnviroScienceTechnology.asp?ID=102
Transcribed Thursday, November 29, 2001

Recently, I had a most unexpected, but illuminating, experience. With a local farmer, I was called on to defend genetically modified crops in a major public debate held at a very beautiful cathedral in southern England. The audience of around 300 comprised local school children and their teachers.  And the end of the exchange, the audience would vote to determine who "won" the debate.

The Green opposition was rabid in its denunciation of biotechnology in agriculture. The chair of the debate, a well-known politician and BBC radio personality, assured us that we would be roundly defeated, lucky indeed if we obtained any votes at all.

But when the vote was taken, he was staggered: we won overwhelmingly ­ by two-thirds. We were further amazed by the outstanding speeches from the floor praising the potential of biotechnology, especially for the developing world. The opposition seemed to be quite shaken by the outcome.

What had happened? The students had, some for the first time, been allowed to hear the voice of reason, sound scientific argument, and down-to-earth practical farming.

This experience has been reinforced many times in schools where I have spoken to the oldest students, including at some of the most famous schools in England, such as Eton and Harrow. The pupils are knowledgeable, thoughtful, skeptical, and open to real science. They do not seem, in any way, to have been duped by the Green hype and rhetoric so unthinkingly peddled day in and day out by our more politically correct media. Indeed, there appears to be a growing distrust of the press on environmental matters -- a clear mismatch between journalistic excitability and the public they claim to serve.

Interestingly, two social surveys -- one in the United Kingdom, the other in Australia -- have also just confirmed a significant decline in general environmental interest.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has recorded a fall in concern nationally about the environment from 75% of households in 1992 to 62% in 2001, with only 25% of South Australians and 14% of those living in the Northern Territory willing to donate any time or money to environmental matters.

In the United Kingdom, the figures presented by the new report on British Social Attitudes are even starker. The number of people willing to pay higher prices to defend the environment has fallen from 46% in 1993 to 43% in 2001 and those willing to pay higher taxes from 37% to 31%. Particularly surprising -- given the massive overhyping of global warming in the UK -- only 14% said they would be willing to cut back on their use of the car. And the overall drop in concern is most significant in young adults (18 to 24-year-olds), with support for environmental petitions, for example, falling from 50% in 1993 to a mere 31% in 2001.

These trends are quite extraordinary when one thinks of the constant media coverage of Green issues during the last ten years or so. They clearly demonstrate a remarkable ability on the part of people to see through the distortions and extremes that so mar the debates over topics like climate change and biotechnology.

I have long believed that the hype would eventually backfire. As my wife said the other day: in the 1970s and 1980s, she was terrified by the prospect of a nuclear winter and a plunge into another Ice Age; in the 1990s, it was 'global warming'; today she will just get on with her life and leave the eco-gloomsters to their own fraught world of eco-chondria. We have enough to worry about with genuine problems like terrorism, wars and poverty, thank you very much.

And this is the precise danger of the Kyoto Protocol. After all the hype, when climate doesn't do what has been predicted - that being most likely outcome - where then will be 'scientific' credibility?  The baby of sensible and cautious environmental 'science' could well be thrown out with the dirty bath water of foolish exaggeration.

The extreme Greens are increasingly unrepresentative of the very constituency that should be their own. Where there is simple, straight, non-political, hard science teaching in schools and universities; where people are able to hear rational arguments rather than lies and distortions; and where a balanced attitude to real risk replaces a fearful attitude to virtual risk, then the seeds of extreme environmentalism fall on barren ground.

It is surely the moral duty of genuine science and environmental correspondents, science teachers, and writers of popular science to ensure that such a rational and balanced discussion of scientific progress is feasible. We can all conjure up demons and dragons; 'truth' and reality are far tougher assignments.
 

Philip Stott is Emeritus Professor of Biogeography in the University of London. His latest book, with Dr. Sian Sullivan, is Political Ecology: Science, Myth and Power (Arnold and OUP, 2000).

***

Great GM debate ready for the off

Vic Robertson
Thursday, 29th November 2001
The Scotsman
http://www.business.scotsman.com/news/headlines_specific.cfm?section=Agr&headlineid=21238

IT HAS been touted by some as a battle royal between opposing factions of the genetic modification school of thought. But others may see it as David and Goliath.

Although not quite the hottest ticket in town, demand for access to next Tuesday’s debate in London on whether it is time to put GM foods back on the shelf, staged by a leading retail magazine, is a sell-out.

In the blue corner will be Hugh Grant, not the actor but the Scots-born chief operating officer of the GM giant Monsanto, and in the red corner Patrick Holden, still punching above his weight as director of the organic Soil Association.

The result is by no means a foregone conclusion. Food retailers, who are expected to make up a large part of the audience, are still running scared of what they see as a potential consumer backlash against GM foods which has seen shelves totally denuded of anything remotely connected with this technology in the past couple of years.

But, after initial leaden-footed tactics in promoting these products, Monsanto and other leading GM exponents have caught their second wind to launch a more considered attack on public sense and sensibility in accepting the products of this new - well 20-30-year-old - technology.

Behind them they have gathered millions of dollars of worth of scientific investigation to show that there is not a scintilla of evidence of ill health - physical or mental - that can be attributed to GM foods; that far from damaging the environment, it can actually enhance diversity; and that it has a positive role in helping overcome world hunger. In the face of repeated public surveys by the Food Standards Agency, the Institute of Grocery Distribution and others, which showed GM as coming well down the pecking order of consumer concerns about food, the anti lobby has focused more closely on the environment, echoing the "silent spring" warnings of environmentalist Rachel Carson back in the early 1960s and through subsequent decades.

But that was a warning against the vast amount of chemicals farmers and growers sprayed on their crops . These allegedly destroyed large sectors of our wildlife, particularly birds.

GM crops are said to offer a real alternative to this, cutting out the need for "insurance" spraying at least, and making a sizeable dent in the £400 million a year spent on crop treatments in Britain alone, and a staggering U$30 billion world-wide.

Earlier this year, the Fabian Society, a left-of-centre think tank, issued its paper on a "National Plan for reconstruction of British farming," calling for a "greener food standard" and a tax system to curb farm pollution, particularly chemicals. There was no mention of the role that biotechnology could play in this aim. [perhaps because it wasn't considered necessary?]

Sean Rickard of Cranfield University, who is known more for his brickbats on British and European farming than his praise, is nevertheless a supporter of GM which he sees as having the same relationship to food production as IT to industry and commerce, not just nationally but internationally.

His views would be endorsed by, among others, the cotton farmers of the Makhatini flats of South Africa, who, since adopting genetically engineered crops which produce their own pesticide against boll worms are now doing so well they are looking to the manufacturers Monsanto, for financial advice on what to do with their profits.

Environmentalists have raised the spectre of insects developing a resistance to the active transplanted gene but in the US, where genetically engineered cotton is widely used, there is no evidence of such resistance developing.

ngin bulletin archive

INDEX