ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

18 March 2002


Telling comment in item 1 on the Prakash petition and Christou of the JIC's editorial-attack on Chapela and Quist in Transgenic Research:

"The cause of knowledge is not served by premature editorials or petitions based on the supposition that inconvenient data may be flawed. The actions of some scientists involved have polarised even further the GM debate and complicated the process of informed dialogue."

1. Comment on Prakash/Christou and inconvenient data - THES
2. EU study prompts growing fears over GM crops
3. Ex-Clinton aide offers vision of future: Terrorists, big floods, super race predicted


1. The Times Higher Education Supplement (No.1529; Pg.13) March 15, 2002

Cool It
Denis J. Murphy

Like many other scientists, I am troubled by the unseemly controversy over claims that transgenic DNA may have spread to traditional varieties of Mexican maize ("Scientists call for reason in GM row", THES, March 8).

I doubt whether there would have been such a reaction if the offending paper in Nature had been about a polymerase chain-reaction study of cross-pollination in non-GM crops.

Surely, if there is a suspicion that the original work was flawed, there is a long-established method to refute the findings - repeat the analysis independently of the original investigators.

The cause of knowledge is not served by premature editorials or petitions based on the supposition that inconvenient data may be flawed. The actions of some scientists involved have polarised even further the GM debate and complicated the process of informed dialogue.

Denis J. Murphy
University of Glamorgan


2. EU study prompts growing fears over GM crops

The Herald (Glasgow), March 16, 2002

Campaigners last night called for an immediate halt to genetically modified crop trials in Scotland after an EU report claimed that some of the crops were highly likely to cross-breed with organic or wild plants, posing a risk to farms certified as GM-free. The demand came after it emerged that a study by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the EU environmental data body, found that oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize - three key GM crops - had a medium or high likelihood of transferring genetic material. Potatoes, wheat and barley were unlikely to cross-breed, the report said. The study looked at six crop types to see how much cross-pollination occurs with neighbouring crops or wild relatives. The report said: "Oilseed rape can be described as a high-risk crop for crop-to -crop gene flow and from crop to wild relatives. "At the farm scale low levels of gene flow will occur at long distances and thus complete genetic isolation will be difficult to maintain."

Details of the report entered the public domain the day after Ross Finnie, the Scottish environment and rural development minister, gave the go-ahead for GM crop trials at three new sites in Scotland. The EU findings have added to environmentalists' concerns that GM crops could introduce unwanted genetic changes to wild plants and could strengthen the hand of organic farmers who want to ensure GM crops are kept well away from their fields. Campaigners have been staging a vigil at a farm, near Munlochy, in the Black Isle, for six months where GM oilseed rape is being grown. Last night, Kenny Taylor, chairman of Highlands and Islands GM Concern, who has been a leading opponent of the GM crop trials, said: "For the EU to be taking this line is very significant. Campaigners have been trying to draw attention to this problem for some time now and it is very worrying that it has taken so long for our concerns to be recognised within the heart of Europe. "Within Britain just a few weeks ago English Nature, the government conservation agency south of the border, made a strong representation to the UK government about exactly the same problem. Canadian farmers already know to their cost about the risks of contamination by GM crops. "The idea that Britain could be continuing with so-called field trials of those dangerous varieties beggars belief."

Dr Taylor added: "This latest development further strengthens our case to Ross Finnie to stop the nonsense of GM crops in the wild immediately."


3. Ex-Clinton aide offers vision of future: Terrorists, big floods, super race predicted

By Leslie Williams
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) March 15, 2002

President Bush will face challenges much more complicated than the 20th century issues of poverty, welfare reform and budget deficits, says a political guru who once advised former President Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. Expect terrorism, genetic engineering and global warming to dominate the 21st century agenda, Dick Morris told a group of students Thursday at Tulane University. "Let me tell you, this is going to be a tough, tough century," said Morris, a Fox News commentator and columnist for the New York Post and The Hill. Morris said he thinks the United States can stamp out terrorist organizations and stop nations from sponsoring them. "But 20 years from now, you won't need a group; you won't need a nation. All you'll need is one crazy SOB, and he's a terrorist gang all by himself," Morris said. "He's going to have a suitcase with an atomic bomb inside."

 The question will be how to deal with an individual terrorist, and the answer is technical: "You've got to get to a whole new generation of detection," he said. The nation also will have to deal with a super race, he said, predicting that genetic engineering will replace skin color as one of the nettlesome causes of class division in American society. "We are facing the likelihood that in the next 10 to 20 years, there will be a lab which a woman can go to and become pregnant with a fetus that will give birth to a person who will live to the age of 200 and will have an IQ greater than that of any current human beings on the planet," Morris said. "The government will outlaw it, say you can't do that, and then they'll get a boat and float in the middle of extraterritorial waters, and millionaires are going to the boat. They're going to pay their $2 million in cash, and they're going to have a child of the new race of humans."

Elected leaders will have to make sure such genetic tampering improves the human race and does not result in Hitler types, he said, adding that "for the first time we're going to be changing the very substance of human nature."

 In the future according to Morris, the United States also will have to prepare for great floods and droughts. Global warming is heating up the planet, he said, and the Arctic ice caps will begin to melt. Louisiana will be under water. Large areas of coastal populations will flood. And rain will fall in the wrong place. "What used to fall in the middle of Kansas will fall in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean," Morris said. The political consultant, who resigned from Clinton's 1996 campaign after it was revealed he was consorting with a prostitute, also offered his opinions on a smorgasbord of current topics: -- Iraq's Saddam Hussein -- "We have to get rid of Saddam Hussein to send a message to Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Sudan that basically says, 'you're next' " if support of terrorism continues. -- Political reform -- "I think the political system in the U.S. is about to change over the next four or five years to a point where money is not going to matter much anymore and the entire method of our doing politics is going to change totally. Campaigns are going to be waged online, on the Internet."

 -- Clinton -- An "absolute genius" who "understands everything about everything." A man with a complicated mind who sees the merits of both sides. As a result, he's slow to act. -- Former Vice President Al Gore -- Not as smart as Clinton. He's a pessimist who always sees the glass as half empty. -- President Bush -- "Not as intelligent as the other two (Clinton and Gore). He sees the world as good and evil, right and wrong. And because of this, when it comes to dealing with terrorism, 'Bush is my guy'."

 -- Drugs -- Drug sales are financing Latin America's drug dealers in their battles against governments. Drug testing is the best way to reduce drug use in the United States. -- Trial lawyers -- "Thank God they exist because they force companies to make decisions which are socially constructive."

 . . . . . . . Leslie Williams can be reached at or (504) 826-3358.

ngin bulletin archive