GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 6th  May 2004

Scientists in fear of GM industry Backlash

Scientists who express doubts about GE technology or publish results that undermine industry commercial objectives are living in fear of a backlash from the biotech industry. Confirming similar concerns from within the New Zealand scientific community, former UK Minister Michael Meacher has called for a full and open inquiry into commercial pressure compromising sound science.

Mr Meacher, speaking at a meeting of the Independent Science Panel in London supported a full investigation into concerns that the push to get GM crops approved and commercialised has distorted and corrupted science, and resulted in many scientists being victimised for trying to tell the truth about their research findings, or about what they know.

“We have heard the same issues being raised by scientists in New Zealand,” says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

“Scientists who have spoken out against commercial GM release here have been vilified and become the subject of industry-driven personal and professional attacks,” says Mr Carapiet.

In the UK over 30% of scientists admitted in a survey that they had been pressured by their commercial sponsors to change their presentation of results in the interests of the sponsor. GE Free NZ in food and environment wants urgent confidential research to be undertaken with New Zealand scientists to gauge the size of problem here.

“We know it is happening- our Crown Research Institutes are required to work with commercial interests... The issue is whether it is a small number just working in genetics or is the pressure to compromise sound science more widespread,” says Mr Carapiet.

Michael Meacher spoke directly to the same concerns in the UK, highlighting the lack of good research into the long-term effects of GM foods on human health. More worryingly, when research turns up evidence of potentially adverse impacts, the results have been rubbished by the scientific establishment, and have not been followed up with further tests to confirm or refute the original findings.

Meacher called for a new, full-scale expert GM enquiry in the UK and demanded a more open and transparent scientific process, and an end to the suppression and vilification of scientists whose work may produce results that are inconvenient for the government or the biotech industry.

He also said that decision-making in the UK should not be influenced by the biotech industry, stressing that “No scientist with industry links should be appointed to regulatory bodies”.

Mr. Meacher also called on the government to ensure the integrity of research by fully funding independent research, and to abandon the current practice of encouraging the private sector to contribute 25% of research funding.

The same questions need to be asked in New Zealand too.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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