A true scientist's look at the evidence

June 2011

Fran Murrell, co-founder of Australia's Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE), describes how she became an anti-GM campaigner: 
“I was curious about genetic modification of plants – it struck me as a promising idea – so I went to talks given by various GM proponents. It worried me that they were just talking in generalities, saying it was 'highly unlikely' there was any health risk from GM. That struck me as unscientific; it was like they were presenting the truth from on high to the lesser mortals.”
Like many other campaigners, Murrell noticed that as soon as she scratched the surface of the pro-GM hype, there were plenty of unsupported assumptions underneath, but little scientific substance.

After she'd done her homework, she realised how easy it is to know more than the 'scientists' who rush to defend GM. She said:
“We've rung up scientists who support GM and ask them whether they've read the safety data and many of them haven't”.
The reality, as Murrell has now realised, is that her 'GM demystifiers' have the strength of knowledge on their side: 
“Our opponents can't defeat us in the world of evidence, science or argument – we've done the research – so they just ignore us.”
Murrell notes that scientists seem to have felt a need to tag themselves as 'pro-GM' or anti-GM' whereas “If scientists are worth their salt, they are looking at the evidence.”

One scientists who is worth his salt and is looking at the evidence, is Andres Carrasco, head of Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires. Carrasco confirmed the findings of other scientists that Roundup herbicide, which is liberally sprayed on GM Roundup-tolerant crops in his country, causes birth defects. Despite the strength of the evidence from both laboratory and population studies, Carrasco has faced a concerted attempt to run down his 30 years of reputation as a scientist. He describes, very eloquently, the level of desperation in the measures taken to silence him: “They know they can't cover up the sun with one hand.”


The most striking of Fran Murrell's discoveries is that it is the concerned campaigners who have studied the evidence, while many (or indeed most) scientists haven't actually done their homework at all.

Even if you don't feel up to ploughing through scientific papers, there are lots of layman's descriptions, outlines and summaries available to you. For example: The Institute of Science in Society, GM Free Cymru, GM Freeze, GM Watch, and, of course, GM-free Scotland.

The biotech industry can walk rough-shod through ignorance, but can't get past a wall of knowledge. Inform yourself.

  • Necia Wilden, Against the grain: IS GM food safe? The Australian, 30.04.11
  • Joan Melcher Miller-McCune, More Evidnece Linking Pesticides and Malformations,, 24.04.11

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