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Date:

February 24, 2002

Subject:

Joint Statement in Support of Scientific Discourse in

 

Friends,

I am sure most of you have been following the so-called Mexican maize "contamination" scandal. The research by Ignacio Chapela and David Quist of UC Berkeley published in Nature supposedly found CaMV 35S promoter sequences in Mexican maize landraces. (žTransgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, MexicoÓ; Nature; 29 November 2001; Vol 414, pp 541-543). This research methodology and its conclusions are however being challenged by a number of groups through formal letters to Nature (under review), and it was also addressed recently in an editorial in the journal 'Transgenic Research'.

A number of activist groups have now responded to the criticisms and challenges with a 'Joint Statement on the Mexican Maize Scandal'. (see for example foodfirst.org) This statement essentially claims that those scientific criticisms are akin to "mudslinging" and "unethical attacks" rather than simply good, vigorous scientific discourse.

Late last week, about a dozen scientists decided to respond in the form of a scientist Joint Statement, which you can read below.

If you would like to add your name to this AgBioView counter-statement, please send a message to . I also encourage you to send your comments on this issue for posting on AgBioView to .

I thank all the scientists who have signed the AgBioView statement.

Sincerely,

Prakash
--------

Joint Statement in Support of Scientific Discourse in Mexican GM Maize Scandal

Recently, several activist organizations and individuals signed a žJoint StatementÓ charging impropriety and criticizing vigorous scientific debate surrounding controversial GMO research published in Nature. The research supposedly demonstrated that Mexican landrace maize varieties had been žcontaminatedÓ with genetic material from maize varieties improved through biotechnology, presumably through cross pollination (activist statement available at foodfirst.org)

It is important to recognize that the kind of gene flow alleged in the Nature paper is both inevitable and welcome. It is inevitable because of the nature of maize, and it is welcome as demonstrated by the standard practices landrace custodians have used to improve their varieties for thousands of years -- increasing variation by planting seeds of new varieties adjacent to old ones, and then selecting the desired offspring while discarding the rest.

However, several scientists have now challenged the methodology and the results reported in the Nature paper in formal letters to Nature. The editorial board of the journal Transgenic Research found it surprising žthat a manuscript with so many fundamental flaws was published in a scientific journal.Ó

These challenges are based on the fact that the key research method employed is highly prone to false positives, and the Nature paper failed to use standard techniques to ensure accuracy and confirm results. The žjoint statementÓ signed by the activists strongly condemns these challenges from fellow scientists as nothing more than žacademic intimidationÓ and ža highly unethical mud-slinging campaign.Ó

It must be stated clearly and unequivocally: scientists have a fundamental ethical obligation to rigorously examine the results and methodology of reported research. This is in fact how science corrects mistakes and ever more closely approximates truth and understanding. Far from being žmudslingingÓ or žintimidation,Ó all scientists worthy of the name understand that relentless double-checking and independent third party evaluations are the cornerstones of the scientific process.

Such relentless criticism and re-examination is perhaps most important when it leads in directions that may conflict with a point of view driven by politics or activism, rather than science.

We the undersigned scientists declare our support for appropriate and necessary scientific discourse and debate, especially in areas marked by widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation, such as agricultural biotechnology.

Ingo Potrykus
Professor Emeritus, Institute of Plant Sciences
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Centre

Klaus Ammann
Director of the Bern Botanical Garden,
Chair of the IUCN-SSC European Plants Specialist Group
Switzerland

Sarah C. Hake
Adjunct Professor
University of California, Berkeley

Michael Freeling
Professor of Genetics
University of California, Berkeley

Martina Newell McGloughlin
Director and Adjunct Professor
University of California, Davis

Bruce Chassy
Executive Associate Director of the Biotechnology Center
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rick Roush
Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management
University of Adelaide, Australia

C.S. Prakash
Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics
Tuskegee University, Alabama, USA

Douglas Powell
Assistant professor, Department of Plant Agriculture
University of Guelph, Canada

Henry Miller
The Hoover Institution
Stanford University

Neal Stewart
Associate Professor
Univerity of North Carolina, Greensboro

Tom DeGregori
Professor of Economics
University of Houston

Alex Avery
Director of Research and Education
Center for Global Food Issues

Matt Metz
Assistant Professor
University of Washington, Seattle











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From: "AgBioView from AgBioWorld.org"
Subject: AGBIOVIEW: Joint Statement in Support of Scientific Discourse in
Mexican GM Maize Scandal
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Friends,

I am sure most of you have been following the so-called Mexican maize "contamination" scandal. The research by Ignacio Chapela and David Quist of UC Berkeley published in Nature supposedly found CaMV 35S promoter sequences in Mexican maize landraces. (žTransgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, MexicoÓ; Nature; 29 November 2001; Vol 414, pp 541-543). This research methodology and its conclusions are however being challenged by a number of groups through formal letters to Nature (under review), and it was also addressed recently in an editorial in the journal 'Transgenic Research'.

A number of activist groups have now responded to the criticisms and challenges with a 'Joint Statement on the Mexican Maize Scandal'. (see for example foodfirst.org) This statement essentially claims that those scientific criticisms are akin to "mudslinging" and "unethical attacks" rather than simply good, vigorous scientific discourse.

Late last week, about a dozen scientists decided to respond in the form of a scientist Joint Statement, which you can read below.

If you would like to add your name to this AgBioView counter-statement, please send a message to . I also encourage you to send your comments on this issue for posting on AgBioView to .

I thank all the scientists who have signed the AgBioView statement.

Sincerely,

Prakash
--------

Joint Statement in Support of Scientific Discourse in Mexican GM Maize Scandal

Recently, several activist organizations and individuals signed a žJoint StatementÓ charging impropriety and criticizing vigorous scientific debate surrounding controversial GMO research published in Nature. The research supposedly demonstrated that Mexican landrace maize varieties had been žcontaminatedÓ with genetic material from maize varieties improved through biotechnology, presumably through cross pollination (activist statement available at foodfirst.org)

It is important to recognize that the kind of gene flow alleged in the Nature paper is both inevitable and welcome. It is inevitable because of the nature of maize, and it is welcome as demonstrated by the standard practices landrace custodians have used to improve their varieties for thousands of years -- increasing variation by planting seeds of new varieties adjacent to old ones, and then selecting the desired offspring while discarding the rest.

However, several scientists have now challenged the methodology and the results reported in the Nature paper in formal letters to Nature. The editorial board of the journal Transgenic Research found it surprising žthat a manuscript with so many fundamental flaws was published in a scientific journal.Ó

These challenges are based on the fact that the key research method employed is highly prone to false positives, and the Nature paper failed to use standard techniques to ensure accuracy and confirm results. The žjoint statementÓ signed by the activists strongly condemns these challenges from fellow scientists as nothing more than žacademic intimidationÓ and ža highly unethical mud-slinging campaign.Ó

It must be stated clearly and unequivocally: scientists have a fundamental ethical obligation to rigorously examine the results and methodology of reported research. This is in fact how science corrects mistakes and ever more closely approximates truth and understanding. Far from being žmudslingingÓ or žintimidation,Ó all scientists worthy of the name understand that relentless double-checking and independent third party evaluations are the cornerstones of the scientific process.

Such relentless criticism and re-examination is perhaps most important when it leads in directions that may conflict with a point of view driven by politics or activism, rather than science.

We the undersigned scientists declare our support for appropriate and necessary scientific discourse and debate, especially in areas marked by widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation, such as agricultural biotechnology.

Ingo Potrykus
Professor Emeritus, Institute of Plant Sciences
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Centre

Klaus Ammann
Director of the Bern Botanical Garden,
Chair of the IUCN-SSC European Plants Specialist Group
Switzerland

Sarah C. Hake
Adjunct Professor
University of California, Berkeley

Michael Freeling
Professor of Genetics
University of California, Berkeley

Martina Newell McGloughlin
Director and Adjunct Professor
University of California, Davis

Bruce Chassy
Executive Associate Director of the Biotechnology Center
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rick Roush
Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management
University of Adelaide, Australia

C.S. Prakash
Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics
Tuskegee University, Alabama, USA

Douglas Powell
Assistant professor, Department of Plant Agriculture
University of Guelph, Canada

Henry Miller
The Hoover Institution
Stanford University

Neal Stewart
Associate Professor
Univerity of North Carolina, Greensboro

Tom DeGregori
Professor of Economics
University of Houston

Alex Avery
Director of Research and Education
Center for Global Food Issues

Matt Metz
Assistant Professor
University of Washington, Seattle