Monday, 29 October 2007

Lies, Science and the death of Bees

When he was at its helm, that eminent expert in bird behaviour, Sir John Krebs, and the FSA itself, were selected winners of the prestigious "Pants on Fire" award by the Norfolk Genetic Information network - for
'their complete failure to live up to their billing as a "force for change" in consumer protection'
The Food Standards Agency has now ordered a review into its advice that
"the current scientific evidence does not show that organic food is any safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food."
Sir John was well known to be an advocate of GM foods before his surprise appointment to the FSA, dismissing anyone who disagreed as "shrill, often ill-informed and dogma-driven". He was also a member of that inner circle of scientists from the Dark Side, King, Anderson, May, Woolhouse, Ferguson and co. who between them perpetrated and then defended the horrors of the 2001 contiguous cull. Sir David King has recently expressed concern that the public is not always on board with the best scientific advice:
"If we have a breakthrough, and society is not accepting of that, then we have a problem..."
How cynical some of us have become to be less than impressed with his new code of "seven principles aimed at building trust between scientists and society." But it is not words that build trust. And how devalued has that phrase "best scientific advice" become too. It has been wielded in order to bludgeon into silence the perhaps "unscientific" but nevertheless gut level wisdom of the grass roots.

So the FSA is going to look again at last at the best scientific advice that has kept them contemptuous of organic farming for nearly a decade. As if to support such a move, we read today that an ongoing four year Newcastle University study has found that
"Fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 per cent more nutrients if they are grown without chemical fertilisers and pesticides, organic milk contains 80 per cent more antioxidants and organic produce also had higher levels of iron and zinc, vital nutrients lacking in many people's diets."

Did we really need a £12 million project to tell us that? People do not need to be scientists to have an instinctive grasp of what is good.

So Geoffrey Lean's article in the Independent today came as a nasty shock. It revealed that the government has been using taxpayers' "tens of millions of pounds a year to boost research into modified crops and foods" Constant claims of impartiality on GM technology and repeated promises to promote environmentally friendly, "sustainable" farming are, quite simply, lies. Internal documents obtained by the Independent under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that DEFRA (which will not allow farmers to vaccinate their animals against foot and mouth even though the vaccines are safe and effective) have allowed the biotech giant BASF to plant 450,000 modified potatoes in British fields. DEFRA officials ..
"..repeatedly went to remarkable lengths to make sure the trial conditions, supposed to protect the environment and farmers, were "agreeable" to BASF"

How ironic that the Times today asks who will regulate the regulators.
".. “Health and Safety” seems now to be the universal excuse to ban anything that was once enjoyable: bonfires on Guy Fawkes night, conkers contests, diving boards in public swimming baths, festive lights, amateur dramatics – and scores of other traditions embedded in the fabric of life..."
But the nanny state does not stretch its neck into the dark alleys of the biotech industry. The Health and Safety police are not shining their flashlights onto the fact that stringent tests are not required for 'biopesticides' produced continuously in open fields; nor for the herbicides and herbicide residues accumulated by herbicide-tolerant GM crops. "The two traits, biopesticides and herbicide tolerance now account for practically all GM crops grown in the world today,"says

Those who have a deep seated worry about the way genes are manipulated by the biotech companies are often derided. And indeed as an advocate of vaccine production involving some degree of genetic engineering I can hardly want to throw the baby out with the bath water. But this is not an all or nothing issue. Nothing need stop me from being glad that human insulin can be grown in GM yeast. The baby can be kept happily in the tub and still the question of the possible biotech monopoly of the food chain be raised with deep misgivings.

A fierce GM debate is raging in Europe. In France, where 80 percent of the public are against GMO foods, President Sarkozy has said no more will be grown until an evaluation has been considered. When one type of GM maize was fed to rats in a laboratory study at the University of Caen, their immune system was weakened, a finding that echoes the study done 10 years ago by Dr Arpad Putzai whose research at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen found that rats developed stomach lesions after eating GM potatoes.

He was vilified. Being a heretic of today's scientific authodoxy is not much healthier than it was in the days of Galileo.

Hungary banned the planting of Monsanto's MON 810 seed in January 2005. Germany says maize grown from MON 810 seeds can only be sold if there is an accompanying monitoring plan to research its effects on the environment. Austria could soon be facing an attempt by EU regulators to force it to lift bans on two GMO maize types. See

Plans for full commercial go ahead in the UK are not far away. Farmers will be allowed to plant GM oilseed rape just 35 metres from non-GM crops, forage maize will be able to be planted 80 metres away and grain maize will be allowed within 110 metres of conventional crops. Pollen can be carried by insects or wind for miles (a pine tree's pollen has been shown to spread 400 miles away.)
In Canada, the introduction of GM oilseed rape has all but wiped out the organic oilseed rape industry by cross contamination.

And what of the bees? The so called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)could well be laid at the door of the biotechnicians. It has been seriously suggested that bees are disappearing because of exposure to the unnaturally large quantities of the naturally occurring pesticide Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is produced in GM crops. In the GM plant Bt is produced by every cell including roots, stems, leaves and flowers - and the pollen.
It is not clear if the quantities of Bt produced by GM crops are themselves to blame for bee deaths. We know that the parasitic varroa mite that carries the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, has put paid to many millions of bees. However, what is clear is that organic farmers such as those at Sheepdrove go out of their way to nurture plants that redress the balance and help the bees.

Albert Einstein said,
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

On the issue of GMOs the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is defiant. It says its funding for the research on GM crops would continue even if there was "a Europe-wide ban" on growing them commercially. (It may be remembered that the BBSRC, which also owns the land and buildings on the Pirbright site, was not so keen to shell out for some drain repairs. As Jonathan Shaw told the House of Commons this month, funding of the effluent drainage system, "whether remedial or replacement" was their business as much as IAH's or Merial's.)

Tony Blair put Labour Party donor, Lord Sainsbury, on the government's GMO regulatory committee - a clear case of clash of interests. Labour's legislation covering GMO trials has been risible and no one bothers to deny any more that Governments and big business work hand in hand. And where does that leave small business? The UK government seems to be facing up to the end of traditional farming with an extraordinary stoicism. It is hard not to speculate on the reasons why.
Monsanto and its rival giants maintain that biotech foods are the only solution to global hunger. And acting on the best scientific advice no doubt, our government wants a cut of the huge profits to be made in the course of carrying out this altruistic aim.

There is a truth here that is so obvious it somehow never gets mentioned
He who controls the food has control of the people
What a heady thought to those high on power already.

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