Keeping Westminster on the front foot

January 2013
Clarification (posted February 2013).
In this article we do not suggest any unethical action on the part of Professor Glover (or George Freeman, or Sam Dryden). They are all very talented people with an outstanding ability to talk and be heard coupled to a rare level of commercial awareness. It is regrettable however, that these talents are wasted on a profit-oriented system, which intently ignores the holistic value of life.
Does it seem far-fetched to suggest that Westminster's current GM campaign is riding on some very smart and insidious PR (see WESTMINSTER'S GM PUSH - January 2013)?

GM Watch has drawn attention to at least one body which definitely has a foot in both camps, government and biotech industry, and is perfectly placed to feed GM-friendly sound-bytes into government ears.

Westminster's pro-GM push

January 2013

Picture from Wiki Commons
In the summer of 2012, the Westminster government appointed pro-GM MP, Owen Paterson, as Environment Secretary. This was accompanied by a low key consultation about new “agri-tech” measures to increase the efficiency of British farms. Options considered included, of course, the introduction of GM crops. The formal ministerial response is due in 2013, but mysterious “insiders” have hinted that the likely outcome will be to promote increased use of GM technology.

At the end of the year, a high-pressure media campaign seemed to spring from nowhere (see A FAIRY TALE FOR CHRISTMAS - December 2012). No one actually said anything that hasn't been said a thousand times before before, but comments on GM made by Owen Paterson inexplicably became 'news', as did another call for a debate on GM by Scottish MP Murdo Fraser.

What clever PR turned these hackneyed comments on GM into major headlines?

Why 'co-existence' is impossible

January 2013

Canola. Photo Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution]
via Wikimedia Commons

1. GM canola flows along roads

A year ago, we reported that GM canola (oil seed rape) was being found everywhere.

This “everywhere”, referred to the well-established and happily inter-breeding GM plants now widespread on roadsides in Canada and America.

How GM foods could be attacking you from the inside

January 2013
Photo from David_Reverchon on Flickr
More than four decades after the herbicide, glyphosate, first entered our food chain and nearly two decades after this chemical started to increase dramatically in our diet due to its accumulation in 'Roundup Ready' GM crops, scientists have taken a look at what glyphosate might be doing to our insides. The indications are not good.

The gut is one of the most complex organ system in our bodies. Not only must it move food, add digestive juices, exclude and eliminate toxins, absorb nutrients and send messages to the rest of the body about what's coming, but it depends on a colossal collection of microbial organisms living inside it to perform its functions and to protect health.

'Normal' gut microbes vary according to the diet, the season, the species of animal and according to their exact location in the gut. Only about 1% of these organisms have been identified and studied, but those few that have demonstrate that the gut has its own highly complex ecology in which some bugs support and some bugs suppress the growth of others. In health, animals have 'good' bugs which prevent the 'bad' bugs from colonising their digestive system and making them ill.

Enter glyphosate mixed in with food and feed.

Living lego

January 2013
Bread Slices
GM yeast in your your daily bread?
Photo by SliceOfChic on Flickr
Just as GM plants were about to hit our food chain in the 1990s, a study was published which illustrated one of the key dangers of genetic transformation.

The paper described GM yeast cells which were created with artificial genes created to boost their production of alcohol. However, besides the desired end-product, the metabolic distortion from the inserted DNA pushed the alcohol pathway into alternative routes. The result was the accumulation of a toxin in the cells normally only present at negligible concentrations: the harmful by-product even reached levels sufficient to induce mutations.

In this early attempt at GM, the toxin stopped cell growth and so was self-limiting. It demonstrates, however, a clear potential for quantities of a novel substance to be released into the yeast's surroundings (the bit we eat and drink), or for the creation of a novel pathogenic yeast strain. Yeast in the environment is uncontrollable.

A strange tale of Golden Rice

January 2013
Golden Rice grain (1)-8
Golden rice. Photo by IRRI Images on Flickr
In 2012, a paper was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which concluded that GM Golden Rice is as effective as supplements in providing vitamin A to children, and more effective than spinach.

The study was a collaboration between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences. It involved a feeding trial carried out on Chinese children aged 6 to 8 years old.

Approval for the study was given by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2002, but only came to the attention of Greenpeace six years later. In response to complaints by Greenpeace at the time, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture asserted that the GM rice had not been imported, and that the trial had been stopped.

GM salmon approved as 'safe' in US

January 2013
Salmon Sashimi for Sushi
Photo by Michael Kappel on Flickr
No festive season would be complete without some GM 'bad' news being slipped out. Almost buried under the rush to prepare for Christmas was the announcement that GM fish have cleared the first hurdle on their way to the dinner table.

Nearly a quarter of a century after its creation, GM super-salmon have been approved 'safe' by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These novel fish have artificial growth-hormone genes inserted so the don't stop growing with the seasons and reach full size in half the time taken by their natural counterparts.

Light that match

January 2013
Howard Zinn
When discussing the civil rights movement and how long it took for activists to see results, historian Howard Zinn told an interviewer: 

“You have to do things, do things, do things; you have to light that match, light that match, light that match, not knowing how many times it's going to sputter and go out before it's going to take hold.”

The biotech industry and its cohort are keeping a sharp eye open for any little flames which illuminate the truth of their GM dreams. And they're ever ready with a big puff of air (not to mention a fire-hydrant) to put them out.

So, next time you find ...

Another sign of a GM food with toxic qualities? Light that match.

Another piece of evidence that Roundup herbicide harms health? Light that match.

Yet more science saying chemical-laden GM crops threaten future generations? Light that match.

Yet more propaganda about the latest must-have, value-added, trick-or-treat GM offering which will save the world? Light that match.

The usual trivialisation of your concerns? Light that match.

No match is ever wasted: each one helps the next one, and the next one ...

Once the fire's going, that biotech puff will only fan the flames and no amount of water will put it out.

Let's resolve do it this year, before GM crops and all their fancy chemical accumulations and novel proteins cause any more harm.