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February 21, 2002


Activist Joint Statement, Commentray on Chapela,


Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 08:08:52 -0600
From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Subject: Activist Joint Statement


I have read that activitist statement (foodfirst.org). I have two comments;

1. Neither CIMMYT nor anyone else should apologize for the truth. As the truth is that the scientific work of Chapela on the Mexican corn isshoddy science and incorrect in its conclusions, nobody should apologize. To apologize is to participate activiely in lying to the public.

2. Nobody should acquiesce in the demands of these activist groups. These groups are acting in an anti-democratic and repressive manner by their demands. They are engaging in political coercion. We should be committed to democratic principles. Hence, we should not allow them to stifle honest science.


From: "Tony Trewavas"
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 13:47:42 +0000
Subject: commentray on Chapela

Dear All

This looks like the third case of those with political axes to grind allowing them to see things which really are not there. Or jumping the gun. Whatever. What is suffering is the reputation of science as being value free; reporting results accurately and independently regardless of our preconceptions. It has of course been the intentions of green organisations to do precisely this and Chapella, Pusztai and Ingham are doing or have done their bit to downgrade the independnce of advice and the reliance the public has placed upon it. The comments on Pusztai in the activist document are quite wrong. He was eight years over retirement and had special dispensation to complete this programme of work with Gatehouse. What he did wrong was not to publish his results first. Instead he decided that what he had was right and he need not be concerned about the views of others on the quality of what had been done. The scientific community reacted quite rightly, pointing out that we go to publication first because we can be wrong, as in Pusztai's case. I am also sure that Pusztai was not aware of the degree of testing that had been done for GM crops and like some, particuarly in the activist area, many has a distorted view of what GM is really about. Being a good lectin chemist does not fit you for dealing with population genetics, horizontal gene transfer and all the other intricacies that come into assessment of GM crop safety.

Ingham was found out in New Zealand again allowing, so far as I can judge, her political views to get the better of her scientific acumen and appraisal. We now know that much of what she said initially was not corroborated by others.

Now we have apparently what may be a third case. I think it is time to request that journals request information on membership of The Union of Concerned Scientist because Pusztai is or was a member as well and has also called for moratoria. I think questions should be aimed at the Union of Concerned Scientists asking it to change its name because it is a misnomer. People are concerned -- scientists provide independent apolitical advice. I should also add that if this case turns out to be correct we should aks whether membership implies that they are free to fiddle any data they like in the " greater" cause.

Are these reasoned appraisals of GM crops by members of the Union of Concerned Scientists or political ones? The continued increase in hectares down to GM crops indicates the judgement to be political. However I think we should be asking Berkeley to request Chapella to release his samples so that they at least can be checked by using Southerns which is the obvious way to provide unequivocal data. Refusal to do so should then be used to request Berkeley to relinquish Chapella's position not because the data may be poor or have political consequence but simply because the reputation of science will have been damaged by the interference of political aims to obtain the required results by whatever means. Furthermore if samples are provided then Chapella should be requested to take this material to an independent laboratory where the PCR can be repeated under supervision and by two distinct groups. Perhaps the Mexican Wheat Institute might be the most suitable place. To move this process forward it will be necessary to contact the HOD of the department Chapella is in to ensure compliance.

If a name could be publicised then I am quite willing to write or phone requesting action.

Anthony Trewavas
FRS university of Edinburgh
Anthony Trewavas FRS
Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology
Mayfield Road
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh EH9 3JH
Phone 44 (0)1316505328
Fax 44 (0)1316505392
email Trewavas@ed.ac.uk
web site http://www.ed.ac.uk/~ebot40/main.html

Date: 22 Feb 2002 14:42:48 -0000
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Joint statement from Scientists?, Environmentalist Biofraud?, TR Editorial

I think we are on the verge of missing the point. It doesn't really matter much in the long term whether Quist and Chapela screwed up or whether there is CaMV in Mexican maize landraces. A more important point is that transgenes are likely to show up there eventually. As long as viable seed is moving across the border and is made available to rural people, some will be planted, resulting in hybrids with local varieties. That is how the capesinos improve their maize and it is routine and OK.

It is NOT contamination when the local breeder deliberately created the crosses to try out new traits. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by trying so hard to discredit the Quista and Chapela results? What will our response be when, as inevitably must happen, valid, defensible studies detect transgenes in Mexican
corn, Asian rice or soybeans, etc? If we buy into the argument that this is "contamination" and is evil, then we are doomed to failure.


Animal House

Wall Street Journal
Friday, February 22, 2002

Remember the "Got Prostate Cancer" billboard of Rudy Giuliani sporting a milk mustache, part of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' campaign against dairy products? And then there was the billboard it wanted to put up after eight-year-old Jesse Arbogast was mauled by a shark: "Would you give your right arm to know why sharks attack? Could it be revenge?"

Well, today the PETA folks find themselves on the other side of an advertising campaign. It comes from the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is backed by a coalition of food companies ranging from restaurant chains to meat and dairy producers. Under the slogan "PETA : Not as warm and cuddly as you think," the center has been running its own ads, featuring a pretty inflammatory weapon: PETA's own words.

In the ad reprinted nearby, for example, PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich dreams about a world in which fast-food restaurants, animal labs and the banks that support them are blown up. When confronted with these words on Court TV, in a debate with the center's John Doyle, Mr. Friedrich suggested that they were taken out of context. So in a follow-up debate on a Chicago radio station, Mr. Doyle invited listeners to "Take the PETA Challenge" by going to the center's Web site (http://www.consumerfreedom.com), clicking on the flashing logo, listening to Mr. Friedrich's entire speech and then deciding for themselves.

If that were all there was, this might all just be jolly good fun. But what lends PETA's actions a more sinister cast are its IRS Forms 990, which show links with two groups that an FBI spokesman told Congress this month are the "most active" U.S.-based terror organizations: the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front.

Last April, PETA donated $1,500 to ELF "to support their program activities." A look at ELF's Web page leaves little doubt what those activities are, with a press release taking credit for a fire at a University of Minnesota biotech lab. A sidebar features handy items such as "Setting Fires with Electrical Timers: An Earth Liberation Front Guide" and "If an Agent Knocks: Federal Investigators and Your Rights." In previous years, PETA has used its tax-free dollars to support other advocates of violence, such as the $45,200 contribution it gave to the "support committee" of Rodney Coronado, an arsonist who pleaded guilty to setting fire to a Michigan State University lab.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk says that these are tiny items in multimillion-dollar annual budgets, that the ELF donation was for a publication (and not its illegal activities), and that Mr. Coronado is a "very nice" and "idealistic" young man. Besides, she says, "there's a difference between violence to property and violence to persons."

You might try telling that to a fireman.