ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
14 July 2002


The call below by Wytze de Lang (item 1) for a retraction of a recent paper in Science is tongue in cheek but his criticisms of this much hyped paper are serious.

Amongst the paper's authors is Rick Roush, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Adelaide. The irony on which Wytze is playing is that Roush, a fervent supporter of genetic engineering, was a vocal supporter of the campaign against Chapela's maize paper.

Roush was also a signatory to the AgBioWorld petition on the issue. This called for severe scrutiny of areas of science affected by "activism". Yet Roush himself haunts the GE discussion lists incontinently taking issue with more or less any criticism of genetic engineering and sometimes posting dubious material attacking critics, organic farming etc., and frequently defending the indefensible (see below Wytze piece for examples of responses to RR postings taken from this month's gentech discussion list:


Wytze de Lang:

The recent publication of the study on Canola Gene Flow by Mary Rieger et al. in Science vol 296, shows some disturbing flaws. One of the things not mentioned in the paper is that there were only 20  HR or source fields on 63 nonHR or sinkfields. Also the positioning  of the fields is not given. All that is said is that the fields were divided over 3 parts of the country, NS Wales, Victoria and S.  Australia. The exact division of the fields is not given. Was it 7,7 6  on 21 fields each? We don't know. Where exactly were the locations? A major flaw is that no data whatsoever are given on  windspeed, winddirection and general weatherconditions during the pollination time of the canola.

All that is said is that no consistent effect of winddirection on pollenmediated geneflow was observed and adds: "data not  shown". One other flaw is that the edge distance of the sinkfields  immediately next to a source field are not given. The paper only says "nearest edge within 100 metres distance"whether that is 95  or 5 metres remains a question. How many fields were directly next to a sourcefield? All we get is a very general story which should impress us because the high quantative number of seeds  tested. But the paper as it is published is totally meaningless and should never have been published by Science! I think it should be retracted. this is not science and the publication seems to be a  political one, coming handy two weeks after Monsanto submitted a  request for approval of commercial growth of GE canola. I wonder  who were the peer reviewers.



Subject: US to Africa: Accept GM or starve (was Re: EUROPE TO AFRICA: GO AHEAD, STARVE)

Christoph Reuss
From: (Christoph Reuss):

Rick Roush forwarded:

The problem is not Zimbabweans. The problem is Europeans. Two years ago,   Zimbabwe restricted genetically engineered foods partly because Europeans   insist imported beef and ostrich not be fed engineered grain, the   Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

This reason is not credible, since the EU's _own_ farmers use GM feed, and the resulting meat, dairy and eggs do not even have to be labelled as "GM-fed".

It seems more likely that the reason for rejecting the US-dumpyard offer is that Zimbabwe wants to remain GM-free, thus avoiding dependencies from fat US companies.  (Note the word "_partly_ because" above!) But of course this piece of US propaganda can't admit this reason.

Talking about ethics: How ethical is it to take advantage of the misery of Zimbabwe by trying to dump globally unwanted GM stuff on them? FYI: The organic solution would be that the EU does not import Zimbabwean meat in the first place, letting Zimbabweans eat their own grain instead.




From: (Christoph Reuss)

This "study" [posted by Rick Roush] is deliberately misleading:

1) Wrong comparison:

The story says that researchers at the University of Guelph food laboratory bought 20 types of organic produce from a Toronto health-food outlet, analyzed them, and compared the result with tables produced by Health Canada on the nutrient content of common foods.

Instead of comparing organic produce with non-organic produce -- which would be the obvious and fair thing to do in such a study -- it compared organic with a theoretical table whose values are probably above the real values in non-organic food.

2) Blaming the victim:

As in the E.coli scare, the industry blames its own faults on organic farming. If a soil has been depleted of all kinds of minerals from decades of _industrial_ farming, then even organic farming can't miraculously regain those minerals from nothing, especially if "organic farming" only consists of omitting pesticides (and not adding specific organic farming techniques).  If the soil is depleted (and empty of microorganisms), it is the fault of decades of industrial farming.  But the industry now blames the low values in organic produce on organic farming, and omits that organic farming can achieve much better results in the long run, which is the point that matters.

3) Unscientific implementation:

As the article mentions in passing, this study is "small and unscientific" and the "Guelph researchers who were contracted to do the work also stressed that the research was done with a very small sample and was not peer-reviewed."

Rick, Rick, what ever happened to your scientific vigor...?


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