Socialist Environment & Resources Association - Labour's
17 Belmont Rd
Bristol BS6 5AW
GM Science Review: First report
This Group's response is:
The Executive Summary minimises the extent of uncertainty
and lack of research, as acknowledged in the body of the report
It is noted that some scientific evidence which has not been
peer-reviewed and published has also been used (pp 8-9) The
problem we see with this is that GM development is not a scientifically
neutral field of research but is dominated by a small number
of powerful commercial corporations (with political resources
and backing). Peer review will normally put knowledge into
the public domain, and in consequence cutting edge knowledge
which has a likely future commercial value may not be subjected
to peer review and/or to a full safety audit.
The similarity of GM to traditional breeding transformations
is over-emphasised (pp50-52). The latter occurs only within
the same family or with viruses.
5.2.6 Lack of successful litigation (p 73)
We do not consider this to be a valid "form of societal
evidence". Impoverished farmers dependent upon bio-tech
companies for seed, pesticide and herbicides cannot fund litigation.
It is also often very difficult to link cause and effect for
low-level poor human health.
Is there a serious error in the phrase "Milder or less
widespread or more delayed adverse effects can be completely
ruled out..." - should can be cannot?
5.2.3 Compositional equivalence (p 70)
Two molecules may be compositionally and structurally identical,
the one being the mirror-image of the other, but have widely
5.5.1 GM crop plants with enhanced value as animal feed (p
We do not accept the assertion that such crops will reduce
pollution. It is over-dense stocking that causes pollution.
Soil microbes naturally recycle faeces, particularly when
6.2.1 Alien species model (p 111)
We believe that the emerging evidence is undermining the
credibility of the Crop Model. The alternative hypothesis
of the Alien Species Model that roughly 1% of introduced GM
plants would become pests, is not reassuring. The number of
new pests is not the main concern but the extent of the devastation
that a very few or even a single species can cause (numerous
examples from New Zealand, Australia, Pacific islands, Hebrides,
mainland UK and the USA).
6.3.3 Anecdotal evidence (p 132)
We detect bias in the characterisation of U.S. farmers' testimonies
(as on p. 17 of the Soil Association's Report "Seeds
of Doubt") as anecdotal while information from scientific
bodies and Bio-Technology corporations is treated as factual.
The corporation reports may be over-optimistic about the advantages
of GM crops and the absence of harmful effects, because of
the need to recoup expenses and show a profit.
6.4.3 Resistance to several herbicides - "gene-stacking"
The statement that HT gene-stacked volunteers are not an
agricultural problem because of the multiplicity of herbicides
available fails to mention that this may lead to the use of
older, more toxic, herbicides. This is a wider problem than
the single example quoted from English Nature.
The report frequently admits lack of knowledge or lack of
research. Examples, but not the only ones are on pages:-
1. Commercial GM crops come as part of an operation by a
small number of transnational corporations which seek to create
and exploit a monopoly of the food supply of the World. The
operation includes the use of the corporations' designated
pesticides and/or herbicides. The report does not examine
the possible consequences of this.
An example is atrazine which was used on GM maize in the
farm trials in this country. Yet this is one of the pesticides
that, on the basis of other scientific evidence, are to be
banned by a European Pesticides Directive. This undermines
the value of the farm trial as a guide to whether GM commercial
planting should be permitted here.
There is an impact of pesticides on soil and the micro-organisms
in it, the amount and quality of both of which are diminishing
across the World. From this First Report it does not appear
that the possible harmful effects of the accumulated use of
glyphosate or glufosinate on this phenomenon are being evaluated
in the Scientific Review. We believe that they must.
2. As more GM crop plantings are scientifically examined
more adverse environmental effects are being reported. The
concerns of some scientists that horizontal gene transfer
will occur appear increasingly to be validated. We see no
evidence to support the re-assurance that this transfer is
"likely to be reversible".
3. We believe that the Scientific Review must take account
(i) Dr. Pusztai's work on potatoes.
(ii) "Characterisation of the Roundup Ready Soybean
insert"( P. Windels et al, Eur Food Res Technol 213:107-112,
2001) where it was found that a segment of a plant's own DNA
had been scrambled and that "The abnormal DNA was large
enough to produce a new protein, a potentially harmful protein".
(iii) "Evaluating the risks associated with using GMOs
in human foods" - the July 2002 report of research at
Newcastle University commissioned by the Food Standards Agency.
(iv) "GM Science Review deeply flawed" by Dr Mae-Wan
Ho ("Science and Society" No. 19, Summer 2003) and
Dr Ho's other work on GMOs, particularly the dangers of horizontal
(v) "Unravelling the DNA myth" (B. Commoner in
Seedling July 2003) which questions the scientific theory
that inheritance is governed only by DNA:-
"Molecular genetics is now confronted with a growing
disjunction between this widely accepted premise and an array
of discordant experimental results that contradict it. But
this disparity remains largely unacknowledged and experiments
with transgenic plants and animals (many of which are not
even recognized to be experiments) continues on a massive
scale." One of the sources to which Commoner refers in
support of this is:-
(vi) "Updated molecular characterisation and safety
assessment of Roundup Ready Soybean Event 403-2" Confidential
Report [MSL-16712] produced by Monsanto Product Safety Center,
Monsanto Company, St Louis, Missouri, USA.
We are concerned that Commoner, the Monsanto report and Windels
do not figure in your Review, while the Newcastle report has
been buried and the work of Pusztai and Ho has been rubbished.
4. Our members welcome the conclusions in the report that
although there have been no verifiable adverse effects from
GM food, this does not mean that they are safe; and the recommendation
that caution continue to be exercised with regard to allergies.
5. We welcome the removal of "substantial equivalence"
from the discussion.
6. GM crops will eliminate the possibility of uncontaminated
organic seed and thus of organic crops and food which the
population, including our members, is increasingly demanding.
7. While we recognize the scope of the Science Review we
do not believe it can disregard the fact that non-GM agricultural
techniques already available are fully capable of satisfactorily
feeding the World. GM food is not needed. GM seeds of which
the patents are owned by a few transnational corporations
will create monopoly monocultures, seriously harming health,
food security and biodiversity.