ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

25 October 2002


October 24, 2002
From a press release
Contact: Nick Parker
(510) 654-4400, ext. 229

(Oakland, Ca.) The scientific magazine Nature has refused to publish a report by scientists contracted by the Mexican government that confirms the contamination of local varieties of  Mexican maize with Genetically Modified (GM) material, according to Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, and confirmed by the Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada in an October 22 story.

The new scientific paper was rejected after two external peer reviewers recommended against  publication for opposite reasons. One reviewer recommended rejection of the Mexican report because the results were "obvious," while the other recommended rejection because the results "were so unexpected as to not be believable." A third reviewer emphasized technical issues. When  asked for comment, Nature editor-in-chief Philip Campbell said the paper was rejected on "technical grounds." He added "the conclusions of the paper could not be justified on the grounds of the reported evidence."

This latest controversy comes after the magazine last year published a report by University of California researchers David Quist and Ignacio Chapela, who concluded that the Mexican maize genome had been contaminated with GMOs. That report brought swift attacks from biotech  industry advocates, and Nature quickly reversed itself on the findings, running commentaries casting doubt on the report, an unprecedented move by the magazine.

"The authors of the new Mexican government study were extra careful with their methodology, precisely because of the controversy surrounding the Quist and Chapela paper," said Dr. Peter Rosset, co-director of Food First. "They actually took into account every scientific critique of the first study, and their results are crystal clear. At worst the new paper suffers from some lack of clarity in explaining all of their methods and conclusions, but a scientific journal would normally respond in such cases by requesting a rewrite."

This should be particularly true in this case, given the scientific importance of the issue, and the role of Nature itself in generating the controversy. "How can the results be unexpected and unbelievable if they confirm earlier results?" said Dr. Rosset. "After Nature, by its erratic  behavior, generated controversy on this important issue, they have a duty to the world's scientific community to open their pages to follow-up studies. To do otherwise is to give the impression of a cover-up, perhaps motivated by biotech industry advertising pages, especially in light of how Nature jumped to do industry bidding the first time around."

If there are technical questions of how best to document incidents of GMO contamination, "surely this an argument in favor of publication of the new Mexican report, so we can all draw our own conclusions," he said.

Food First is calling on Nature to reconsider the rejection of the new Mexican report and allow for a full airing of all available scientific facts surrounding the genome contamination.

For background on this issue, see:
[see also:]

Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
398 60th Street, Oakland, CA 94618   USA
Tel: 510-654-4400   Fax: 510-654-4551

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