ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
16 February 2003

FSA AT IT AGAIN

Thanks to Dr Brian John for these 2 items
1.THE FSA "SPIN" ON GM FOODS AND CROPS, HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUES
2.LETTER OF COMPLAINT

for more on the FSA under Krebs: http://ngin.tripod.com/pants1.htm

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1.THE FSA "SPIN" ON GM FOODS AND CROPS, HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUES

Here it is  -- -- launched 15 Feb 2003.    The FSA contribution to a genetically modified debate.  Interesting stuff.  There is also a range of glossy "educational materials" linked to the site.  Some of it can't be accessed without authorisation, password etc. I tried to sign in, but I am obviously unauthorised!

Link:

http://www.food.gov.uk/gmdebate/gm_links?view=GM%20Microsite

The FSA line on GM food safety (called "GM Food -- opening up the debate"):

http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/gmdebate/aboutgm/gm_safety?view= GM%20Microsite

This is utterly complacent.  All based upon the assumption of substantial equivalence  --  if the ACNFP tells us that all is well, then it is!  No mention  at all of the BMA concerns or of the Scottish Parliament Health Committee Report, or of the concerns of UK consumers and supermarkets.

I have added the FSA GM food booklet as a pdf file.  It is complacent, arrogant, and patronising -- virtually no mention that there are any people out there in the big wide world who have any concerns about GM food, let alone any explanation as to WHY people are concerned.  The booklet is nothing less than a promotional exercise for GM crops and food.

Don't complain to me -- but do complain to Prof David King who is supposed to be running the GM Science Debate -- with advice from the FSA.  Try Emailing him at this address:

maia.gedde@dti.gsi.gov.uk

There is a meeting of the Science Review panel on 18th Feb --  if you hurry you can ask for your complaint to be raised at that meeting!

Brian

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2.Complaint to Prof David King

Prof David King
Chairman, GM Science Review
c/o DTI                                 15th February 2003

Dear Professor King,

I am writing on behalf of GM Free Cymru to complain about the role being given to the FSA as "independent advisors" to the review of GM Science.

The FSA is now viewed by virtually all the NGOs who have an interest in the environmental and health aspects of GM crops and foods as a hostile and partisan organization which is representing the interests of the GM biotechnology industry at the expense of the public interest.  This is a serious charge, and we do not make it lightly; but we believe that the charge is supported by the facts.

1.  Sir John Krebs, the high-profile Chairman of the FSA, protests that he has no particular view on GM issues, but from his frequent attacks on organic foods and farming practices he has clearly aligned himself personally with the "high-tech" and "high-input" style of farming from which GM farming springs.

2.  The FSA's 2002 "focus group" study into "Public Attitudes to GM" was a disgraceful and biased study which has no statistical validity since it targetted the least well informed groups in society.  (People working in the food industry, and members and supporters of FoE, Greenpeace and the Soil Association were specifically excluded from the study.)  If the same groups had been targetted in  a study of the effects of alcohol, or fatty foods, or even smoking, they would have displayed similar levels of ignorance or apathy.  Further, the study involved "education" or "information" of the participants, using materials which have not been made available to the rest of the world and which certainly will not have represented any  concerns or doubts about GM crops and foods.  The study was a piece of propaganda, and not a piece of scientific data gathering; and I am amazed that COI should have lent its name to it.

3.  In response to heavy criticism of the "Newcastle Feeding Study" which showed -- on the basis of a very small group of people and a single meal of GM food -- that intact gene DNA survives the acidic environment of the stomach and enters the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, evidence was also found that intact (and functional) GM gene DNA enters bacteria.  The FSA's response has been to minimise or dismiss the significance of these findings and to refuse, in spite of many requests, to extend these studies into a clinical trial designed to investigate the effects on the human body of on-going consumption of GM foods.

4.  The FSA persistently promotes the view that "GM is continuation of long tradition of trying to influence genetic output".  This is completely fallacious and, if indicative of the information consistently fed by the FSA to uninformed members of the public, highly irresponsible.

5.  The material about GM foods and crops placed on the FSA web site on 14 February is nothing short of an insult to the many thousands of concerned individuals (many of whom, let it not be forgotten, are scientists) in the UK who have major concerns about GM food safety.  The FSA publication "GM Food -- opening up the debate"
(http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/gmdebate/aboutgm/gm_safety?view=GM%20Microsite)
betrays a huge complacency which is based upon the assumption of substantial equivalence.  The publication fails to mention that the concept is meaningless in scientific terms, having started life as a marketing or commercial concept. On health issues, there is no mention  at all of the concerns expressed by the BMA or of the Scottish Parliament Health Committee Report, or of the concerns of UK consumers and supermarkets.  Most informed people who read this report will find it arrogant and patronising, for there is virtually no recognition of widespread public concern, let alone any explanation as to WHY people are concerned.  The booklet is nothing less than a promotional or propaganda exercise for GM crops and food. The FSA exists because people like us pay out taxes, and the issue of this insulting material makes us feel betrayed and very angry.

6.  Now, to add insult to injusry, the FSA plans to undertake a fresh exercise in testing the views of the least well-informed members of society, in another statistically invalid "research exercise". Again, members of the public who might be expected to be well informed are excluded from the process.  This is another crude attempt to come up with the conclusion that "public concern about GM crops is not as extensive as the public opinion polls would have us believe."   We know that that is what FSA is going to say, and we resent the fact that public money is now going to be spent on a considerable scale on such unscientific nonsense.

7.  Our views are given added impetus by the fact that the Environment Minister himself (Guardian, 15 February) has now expressed the view that GM technology could give rise to totally unpredicted problems in decades to come, and that "we have to rely on the biotech companies themselves to tell us if they discover any other problems such as health risks. The system is very trusting and that is worrying."  This confirms that the health and safety work which might give reassurance concerning GM crops and foods has just not been done, and the FSA is culpable in this respect.

8.  Nowhere in any of the FSA literature on GM foods do we find any mention of the precautionary principle, which should underpin the activities of any body concerned with public health and funded through the public purse.  As we have said before, FSA stands accused of failing in its duty of care.

We will be grateful for your assurance that you and your colleagues on the Science Review are fully aware of the FSA's partisan and pro-GM stance.

I should now like to enter a formal complaint, on behalf of GM Free Cymru, concerning the role of FSA in the Science Review.  It is our considered view that the FSA should have its "special status" revoked on the grounds that it is NOT truly independent, having made its role in the promotion of GM crops and foods perfectly clear.  We feel that the continuing involvement of FSA in the Science Review will bring the whole Review process into disrepute.

We are writing to the Secretary of State about this, and we will appreciate it if you will bring this matter to the attention of your Science Review Panel on 18th February.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Brian John
for GM Free Cymru
 


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