5 April 2002
PRAKASH ADMITS LANDRACE CONTAMINATION INDISPUTABLE
1. Prakash & Co. admits landrace contamination indisputable - TIME
2. A-maize-ing admission - Center for Consumer Freedom
3. Nature retraction aside, corn contamination in Mexico still a fact
4. CONQUERING NATURE! ...AND SIDESTEPPING THE DEBATE OVER BIOTECH AND BIODIVERSITY
1. Prakash & Co. admits landrace contamination indisputable
Mexico had a moratorium to prevent contamination of its maize landraces yet that contamination is a racing certainty.
The scientific witch-hunt against Quist and Chapela is intended to obscure this one simple point.
It's a point even their most implacable opponents are unable to dispute:
"Quist and Chapela have subsequently presented data that further supports
the presence of transgenes in maize landraces - a point that has not been
disputed." - CS Prakash's AgBioWorld
"I think at some point soon, someone will come up with good scientific
evidence that it is growing all over the country." - Nick Kaplinsky, who
wrote one of the criticisms of the Mexican corn study
"We certainly stand by our original, main statement and I have yet to
see anyone challenge it legitimately." - Ignacio Chapela, co-author of
the study with David Quist
[FIGHT RAGES OVER BIOENGINEERED CORN, Associated Press, April 4, 2002]
"The whole debate in Nature is an obfuscation of the real issue... Whatever the status of the various studies, the reality is that a Centre of Crop Genetic Diversity has been contaminated and no one is doing anything about it." - Hope Shand of ETC group
In other words, the inside view across the whole spectrum of opinion is that contaminated maize is growing all over Mexico including the home of maize diversity, despite the moratorium on growing GE corn.
The PR campaign to distract from this is all about reducing its political impact. As the ETC group report (item 4 below):
"...Mexican farmers and other civil society organizations are impatiently awaiting two overdue new reports on the situation commissioned by the Mexican Government. It now appears that political pressure is being applied within the Government to delay publication until after the international conference in The Hague. [UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD - April 8 - 26).]
"Although the Secretary of Environment of Mexico, through its Institute of Ecology (INE) contracted two institutions to undertake new tests, the results have been excessively delayed. According to CSOs in Mexico City, the testing done to date all confirms the original Berkeley study."
TIME TO ACT: break through the corporate PR smokescreen: protest GE corn contamination, April 10-17
April 6th-19th, alongside the UN Conference in Holland (see item 4 below),
Resistance is Fertile are organising actions, workshops and activities
for a world without GMOs and patents on life.
If you wish to help organize a protest or press event over GE contamination
in your local area in the US or Canada contact
email@example.com or call in the USA(218-226-2164).
In Latin America, the April 17 protests are being organized by leading
campesino, indigenous, environmental and environmental groups. To help
organize an event in Latin America contact
firstname.lastname@example.org visit www.laneta.apc.org/biodiversidad.
2. A-maize-ing admission
Center for Consumer Freedom: http://www.consumerfreedom.com
[aka Berman & Co - PR company]
The influential science journal Nature has declared that a report on genetically improved corn growing in Mexico "was not well researched enough and should not have been published," The Washington Post reports today. This week's Nature carries a note from the editors, reading: "Nature has concluded that the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper."
The paper, by the University of California at Berkeley's Ignacio Chapela (a board member of the anti-biotech Pesticide Action Network) and David Quist, claimed genetically improved crops were spreading across the continent. That won the praise of anti-biotech activists -- who are now embarrassed by what the Post calls "Nature's near-retraction of the article."
Says University of Washington researcher Matthew Metz: "The Quist and Chapela study is a testament to technical incompetence." And geneticist Michael Freeling, also of Berkeley, demands: "Since Quist and Chapela published bad science in Nature, both scientists and Nature must come absolutely clean, retract and apologize."
Not likely. Despite the criticisms of peers, and the fact that hundreds of scientists and 19 Nobel Prize laureates have signed a declaration that biotech is safe and "can contribute substantially in enhancing quality of life by improving agriculture, health care, and the environment," Quist and Chapela stand by their report. And activists all over North America are proceeding with plans to hold "actions" April 10-17 to smear genetic improvement technology.
3. Nature retraction aside, transgenic corn contamination in Mexico still a fact
by Robert Schubert, CropChoice.com editor
(April 4, 2002 - CropChoice opinion) - The journal Nature was mistaken to retract from its Nov. 29 edition a paper in which two scientists documented their research showing transgenic corn contamination in Mexico.
Contrary to what people casually reading this piece likely will infer from its headline "Suspect evidence of transgenic contamination," critics have disputed the secondary conclusion of the study, not the primary finding.
Potential genetic and economic implications involved with this issue bear on the interests of U.S. corn farmers.
University of California at Berkeley researchers David Quist and Ignacio Chapela discovered in native corn from southern Mexico three separate constructs - a virus and two bacteria, including bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) - that genetic engineers commonly use to transgenically modify plants.
Before publicizing their work, Quist and Chapela notified Mexican authorities about the contamination. Government officials responded by conducting their own studies, which confirmed the original findings; they reported the results in October.
What‚s more, the Mexican government is now running three additional
independent studies. So far, Ignacio Chapela said today at a news conference,
the preliminary findings support the original conclusion that transgenic
DNA has contaminated local landraces. (See the original paper "Transgenic
DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Qaxaca, Mexico"
What the critical letters that Nature published today (along with a reply and more evidence from the California researchers) are assailing is the second conclusion.
Beyond identifying the contamination, Quist and Chapela wanted to establish a context for the presence of the transgenes. In other words, did the genes from the Bt corn appear in the genetic structure of the native varieties because of hybridization (most likely from cross-pollination)? They concluded, using inverse PCR testing, that the answer was yes.
They discovered that genes from the transgenic corn integrated into
multiple points along the native genome. In other words, there were
many occasions for contamination.
Potentially more disturbing than contamination from pieces of the genetically modified corn DNA are the effects it could have down the line. The transgenes could reshuffle in the genetic material (heritable) of the native corn as they get passed to successive generations. This could affect the plants in various ways. For example, it might change the structure of the proteins, which in turn could affect how a person’s digestive system reacts to them.
Quist conceded that "there are legitimate contentions about two of the eight sequences we reported on in the original paper."
Overall, though, "We are interpreting these results through distinctly different lenses," he said. "Our critics are using the lens of plant genomics and genetic engineering to determine which of these patterns are significant and relevant. They are concerned with intact constructs producing proteins of interest. They’re not concerned with gene fragments and the effects those might have.
"On the other hand, we‚re looking at it through the lens of ecology and population biology in which the patterns we see in samples out of nature and their importance need to be considered."
At least two reasons come to mind why corn growers should be concerned about all of this.
In the long run, breeders need a pure source of corn from which to make new hybrids. That‚d be difficult if the native Mexican lines were further contaminated. In the short or medium term, Mexico - the third largest market for our corn could move to protect its indigenous varieties by shutting the doors to U.S. corn imports.
Also on CropChoice:
Whom do you trust?; http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=640
Follow the Farm Bill debate with new web guide;
Earth to U.S. Trade Rep: European consumers don't want genetically modified food; http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=641
Philippines one step closer to regulating GMO crops;
4. STILL MORE ON THE MEXICAN GM MAIZE SCANDAL: CONQUERING NATURE! ...AND SIDESTEPPING THE DEBATE OVER BIOTECH AND BIODIVERSITY
ETC group, News Release, April 4th, 2002
Nature magazine's flip-flop today over the testing protocols involved in determining GM maize contamination in Mexico - the Centre of Genetic Diversity for the vital food crop - is just the latest in a string of absurdities as the scientific community struggles over what to do as genetically-modified germplasm invades the genetic homelands of the world's food supply.
De-naturing Nature: Nature magazine - arguably one of the world's most influential peer-reviewed science publications - in an editorial note today, states that contrary to its report of November 29th, 2001, "...the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper." In other words, farmers' fields in Oaxaca and Puebla have not proven to be contaminated with GM maize. The current issue of Nature contains two articles by scientists refuting the original contamination claims and a reply from the two scientists who authored the original peer-reviewedreport. David Quist and Ignacio Chapela of the University of California at Berkeley stand by their study and add that other studies by the Mexican Government confirm their findings.
Blind-siding Biodiversity: Nature's double take couldn't have come at a better time for the biotech industry. Next Monday, more than 150 governments and equal numbers of civil society organizations will gather in The Hague, Netherlands for the tenth anniversary meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD - April 8 - 26).
A moratorium on Terminator technology, the protection of forests, and discussions around a just-completed treaty on plant genetic resources are all on the agenda.
The case of GM contamination in Mexico was bound to be on the minds of many delegations.
The final week of meetings is set aside to review progress on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol adopted two years ago. The elements of that protocol and its crucial Precautionary Principle would bring the Mexican scandal to the fore as well. "If the CBD can't act on the Mexican situation, if governments cannot agree that the Precautionary Principle applies in this case," says Silvia Ribeiro of ETC, "then there is little hope that this ten-year old Convention serves any useful purpose."
Nature's editorial could have the effect of de-fusing and confusing governmental concern.
Withholding Evidence? The scientific battle raging since at least last September has been over the efficacy of the testing processes. There has been almost no substantive discussion of the likelihood or the implications of GM contamination. In fact, most maize scientists agree that contamination is highly likely and inevitable given the breeding habits of the crop.
Meanwhile, Mexican farmers and other civil society organizations are impatiently awaiting two overdue new reports on the situation commissioned by the Mexican Government. It now appears that political pressure is being applied within the Government to delay publication until after the international conference in The Hague.
Although the Secretary of Environment of Mexico, through its Institute of Ecology (INE) contracted two institutions to undertake new tests, the results have been excessively delayed. According to CSOs in Mexico City, the testing done to date all confirms the original Berkeley study.
Precautionary Practices: Civil Society Organizations gathered at the World Social Forum in Brazil wrote on February 6th to both the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) asking them to take action with respect to Mexican maize contamination. The CGIAR's flagship institute, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) is just outside Mexico City and is deeply embroiled in the transgenic contamination debate.
In a reply dated February 13th, CGIAR expressed concern but declined to take any specific steps. The global network of public research institutes is partly funded by the U.S. Government and is negotiating a number of technology licensing agreements with the biotech industry. "One official told us that the issue was just too hot politically for the CGIAR to get involved," Pat Mooney of ETC group notes.
FAO has been more forthcoming. In a letter dated March 22nd, FAO acknowledged that the situation was serious and reported that the UN agency - in contrast to CGIAR - has requested CIMMYT to investigate the implications for genetic diversity in Mexico and any possible consequences for CIMMYT's maize gene bank. The world's most important international maize collection is held in trust by CIMMYT under the auspices of FAO. FAO expects CIMMYT to report on the situation when its intergovernmental commission meets in Rome this October. Further, FAO is developing a Code of Conduct on Biotechnology and the issues of GM contamination in Centres of Crop Genetic Diversity will now be part of the agenda.
Biodiversity's Bottom line: "The whole debate in Nature is an obfuscation of the real issue," Hope Shand of ETC group says, "Maize breeders and geneticists all know that GM introgression with traditional farmers' maize varieties in Mexico is inevitable and most are convinced that it has already taken place. Whatever the status of the various studies, the reality is that a Centre of Crop Genetic Diversity has been contaminated and no one is doing anything about it. We realize that some scientists do not consider the contamination to be a problem. We disagree. Regardless, we all agree - even CIMMYT - that rigorous study of the implications is needed. In the meantime however, there must be a complete moratorium. The CGIAR should stop stalling and get with the programme!"
excerpt from a fake article put out by Prakash as an April Fools 'joke':
Professor James Henriksen, a botanist at the University of Agricultural Rationalism, said in an interview that ... the safety concerns brought up by environmentalist groups [were] completely unfounded. Added Henriksen, "These people are a bunch of f**kin' a**holes."
"...the 'sound science' movement is not an indigenous effort from withinthe
profession to improve the quality of scientific discourse, but reflects
sophisticated public relations campaigns controlled by industry executives
and lawyers whose aim is to manipulate the standards of scientific proof
to serve the corporate interests of their clients." Doctors Elisa Ong and
Stanton A. Glantz writing in the America Journal of Public Health, November
ngin bulletin archive