Published on September 30th, 2012 | by Jeremy Bloom23
Yes, scientists are attacking the latest Monsanto study – but not because of the science
Sometimes, there’s a fine line between the rats and the scientists.
One important element of science is: Presenting all the data.
So, for instance, when a scientist attacks a GMO study as “using too few subjects”, it’s helpful to know that the study used the same sample size as Monsanto does in their own studies. This allows the listener to objectively deduce whether the objection is valid – or bunk.
Likewise, when a scientist attacks a GMO study, it’s useful to know whether the scientist is a dispassionate observer who is speaking out due to legitimate scientific concern… or the scientist has side-businesses in GMOs himself and therefor has a serious vested interest in Monsanto’s success. Or even one who has been on Monsanto’s payroll.
It’s also telling when scientists put out a press release denouncing a study the same day that the study comes out. This presents the appearance of a PR response, rather than a considered objective analysis.
Case in point: The Science Media Centre of London (which bills itself as “an independent venture working to promote voices, stories and views from the scientific community to the news media when science is in the headlines”), put out a harsh press release the same day as the study – fast work, considering that it quotes eight top scientists!
What they don’t tell you is the industry affiliation of their experts – which is pretty extensive. GMWatch goes down the list, and it’s disturbing how closely-tied the group is to Monsanto and the GM industry, considering the “independent” label the SMC tried to slap on this (and sneak past the media):
- The first expert quoted by the SMC is Prof Maurice Moloney, Chief Executive of Rothamsted Research. What the SMC fails to tell journalists is that Moloney doesn’t just drive a Porsche with a GMO number plate, but has a c.v. to match. It is in fact Moloney’s GM research that lies behind Monsanto’s GM canola (oilseed rape). He also launched his own GM company in which Dow Agro Science were investors. In other words, Prof Moloney’s career and business activities have long been centered around GM.
- Another expert quoted by the SMC is Dr Wendy Harwood. Dr Harwood is a GM scientist at the UK’s John Innes Centre, which has had tens of millions of pounds invested in it by GM giants like Syngenta. In fact, a previous director of the JIC told his local paper that any major slow down or halt in the development of GM crops “would be very, very serious for us.”
- Prof Anthony Trewavas of the University of Edinburgh is another of the experts that the SMC quotes. They don’t mention that Prof Trewavas is also a GM crop scientist, as well as a fervent opponent of organic farming, or that he is notorious for his attacks on scientists who publish research critical of GM.
- Prof Mark Tester is yet another GM scientist quoted by the SMC. He is described by the SMC as Research Professor, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide. His University of Adelaide profile tells us: “His commercial acumen is clear from his establishment of private companies and successful interactions with multinational companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Pioneer-DuPont.”
- The SMC describes Prof Ottoline Leyser as Associate Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge. They don’t mention that the Laboratory is funded by the Gatsby Foundation of Lord Sainsbury, the well known GM enthusiast and biotech entrepreneur, who also set up and funds the GM-related work of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre.
- Prof Alan Boobis is described by the SMC as Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology, Imperial College London. They don’t mention that he is a long-time member of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), i.e the very body that approved the GM corn in question, or that he has also long been on the board of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) – a biotech and food industry lobby group whose backers include the GM giants BASF, Bayer and Monsanto.
- Prof Tom Sanders is described by the SMC as Head of the Nutritional Sciences Research Division, King’s College London. Like Prof Trewavas, Prof Sanders was involved in attacking the Pusztai study that suggested concerns about GM. His criticisms do not appear to have been well founded. This was back in the late 1990s. According to an article in The Independent in 1996, Prof Sanders was at that time “Nutrasweet’s professional consultant”. Up until 2000, Nutrasweet was owned by Monsanto.
So when you hear that “Scientists are attacking the study,” it’s important to look a little deeper into who the scientists are, and what their connections might be. You can nearly always find someone with some sort of scientific credential to attack just about anything; that’s why you should look at all the evidence, and why it’s so insidious when evidence is withheld, as it’s being withheld here.
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After all, scientists (many of them on the payroll of big oil or big coal) have attacked studies on climate change, as well – but the vast majority of the world’s scientific community has not doubts that climate change is happening.