Soil Association, 17 December 2012
The role that genetically modified (GM) food should play in our food chain is a highly contested political issues. One interesting facet of the debate in the past year has been the pro-GM lobby’s interest in staking the ‘scientific high-ground’; simultaneously positioning itself as the voice of reason and progress, while painting its opponents as unsophisticated ‘anti-science’ luddites, whose arguments are full of dogma and emotion, but lack scientific rigour. In this essay Peter Melchett explores how such crude characterisations are themselves based on logic that is itself profoundly damaging to the concept and representation of ‘science’ in our national culture.
Powerful forces in Western society have been promoting genetic engineering (now usually genetic modification – GM) in agricultural crops since the mid-1990s. They have included many governments, in particular those of the USA and UK, powerful individual politicians like George Bush and Tony Blair, scientific bodies like the UK’s Royal Society, research councils, successive UK Government chief scientists, many individual scientists, and companies selling GM products. They have ignored the views of citizens, and most sales of GM food have relied on secrecy – denying consumers information on what they are buying (20 US States are currently embroiled in fierce battles over GM labelling, strenuously opposed by Monsanto). Worse, they have consistently promoted GM in ways which are not only unscientific, but which have been positively damaging to the integrity of science.
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Indeed, the basic science concerning the complexities of gene organisation and function suggests that natural breeding, often augmented with the non-GM biotechnology tool of MAS, is a far more powerful and productive way forward for crop improvement. Natural breeding and MAS not only preserve gene order and function, but allow the multiple gene systems that confer desirable properties such as higher yield,1 2 3 4 5 pest-6 7 8 9 10 and blight-resistance,11 12 13 and tolerance to drought,4 14 15 16 17 salinity,4 18 and flood,4 19 20 21 to be rapidly and relatively inexpensively22 bred into crops – something which is still only a distant dream for GM crop technologists.
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Seven Sins (List Only Below, or Read Full Article)
Sin #1: Equating opposition to GMO with opposition to science
Sin #2: Assuming DNA and gene unraveling came with full understanding
Sin #3: Disguising the complexity of all they do not understand
Sin #4: Blocking of studies by independent scientists
Sin #5: Attacking proven studies of toxicity and infertility associated with GMO
Sin #6: Flasely claiming GMO is rooted in rigorous scientific regulatory regime
Sin #7: Unfounded claims for the future while blocking proof of harm in the present
Phi Beta Iota: Lies are like sand in the gears of a complex and delicate machie. Any government that tolerates such lies is lacking in both intelligence and integrity and is not serving the public interest. This is one reason we are now aggressively pursuing a path toward enabling hybrid public governance with open-source decision-support. Government has become an enabler of legalized crimes against humanity.