SAS - Making Sense of GM

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Making Sense of GM Contributors

Making Sense of GM - Contributors[1]
Contributor Affiliations Quote on GM[2]
Professor Derek Burke SAS, Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), University of East Anglia, John Innes Centre (JIC), Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Allelix Inc, Genome Research Ltd. Genetically modified crops are being grown extensively in North and South America and China and have become a part of the normal diet there. In Europe the contention continues despite the fact that millions of US citizens eat GM soya without any ill-effects. European consumers' opposition to GM foods has had serious repercussions for plant research, for the commercial development of new crops and, most importantly, for developing countries that could benefit most. Several countries in Africa and elsewhere have resisted growing them, mainly for fear of being unable to export them to the European market[3]
Professor Ian Crute Global Future of Food and Farming Foresight project, John Innes Foundation, Rothamsted Research and the East Malling Trust. I applaud the Government's decision to allow commercial cultivation of herbicide tolerant (HT) GM fodder maize in the UK. "HT varieties provide the prospect of reduced economic inputs for hard-pressed farmers striving to compete and sound scientific studies have also demonstrated the potential for some environmental benefit from the way these varieties are likely to be managed. "It is particularly heartening to the scientific community in this country that the Government has clearly signalled its resolve to act on the basis of factual argument and a rational assessment of risk rather than emotive rhetoric and opinion unsupported by evidence" he said[4]
Professor Phil Dale John Innes Centre, SAS, PharmaPlanta I think we have focused far too much on the negative effects of GM and the risk assessment. We need to start planning for exactly how we go about growing these crops effectively rather than worrying about if we should grow them." There were more than a billion acres of GM crops being grown internationally. "We are falling behind," he said[5]
Dr Alan Dewar Dewar Crop Protection Ltd, Rothamsted Research, formerly known as the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR), BBSRC. Dewar has also undertaken research for Monsanto and was involved in a conflict of interest controversy in 1999 during the UK Farm Scale Evaluations. Scientists monitoring plots of GM sugar beet have recorded a significant increase in spiders, beetles and other insects that provide important food for the nestlings of skylarks, lapwings and partridges. They claim in a study published today in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B that GM crops engineered to be resistant to broad-spectrum herbicides could be better for wildlife than conventional crops doused with less powerful weedkillers. The study was run by the Broom's Barn research station in Suffolk, Britain's national centre for sugar beet research, and was part-funded by Monsanto, the American agrochemicals company and principal supplier of GM technology. Alan Dewar, an entomologist at Broom's Barn, said the study was vetted by independent scientists and that Monsanto had no role in determining the way the data was collected or how the findings were published...Dr Dewar said. "I've spent 19 years crawling around sugar beet fields and I have never in all that time seen a skylark's nest. I saw my first one in one of the GM plots," he said. "I didn't expect these things to happen but they did and I was quite pleased"[6]
Professor Malcolm Elliott Norman Borlaug Institute later re-established as The Norman Borlaug Institute for Global Food Security, under the auspices of a working partnership of Rothamsted Research and The University of Nottingham, Springer, Agriculture and Food Security. Tracey Brown, the director of SAS sits on the editorial board for this journal. Malcolm Elliott wrote an article for the telegraph entitled: 'People will starve to death because of anti-GM zealotry'[7]
Dr Helen Ferrier Rothamsted Research Association, East Malling Research and Chair of the Agri-Food Panel at Campden BRI. She is a member of the Institute of Food Science and Technology. She is the NFU’s Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Adviser and has worked for the National Farmers’ Union since June 2004. We have a huge global challenge to feed a population that is due to hit nine billion by 2050 while having less impact on the environment and tackling climate change,' she added. 'To achieve this we will need every weapon in our armoury. That includes GM crops that have been adapted to cope in dry conditions, need fewer pesticides and offer nutritional benefits'[8]
Professor Les Firbank University of Leeds, Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE); Defra Demonstration Test Catchment Science Advisory Committee; Independent Director, Assured Food Standards Ltd, director of Firbank Ecosystems Ltd, head of North Wyke Research, Agro-ecologist and Head of Land Use Research at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. He is on the editorial boards of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment; International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability and Journal of Environmental Management. From January 2012-2013 he was involved in the The CPSL (Cambridge University Programme for Sustainability Leadership) collaboration with the UK dairy industry on Natural capital. On GM he notes: 'Our best knowledge suggests Canada and countries in Europe will have to take on an even greater share of world food production,' he says. 'It is therefore important to ask now if we have the moral right to continue to ignore technologies, including the genetic manipulation of crops, that in a few years could insure this food production reaches an absolute maximum and will help the planet provide enough food for the nine billion people who will be living on it." (On Northwyke research: it was "Formerly part of IGER, (Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research), it now has a new identity within Rothamsted Research, the oldest agricultural research institute in the world[9]
Professor Mike Gale Royal Society, John Innes Foundation, John Innes Centre, Gatsby Trust, BBSRC. Gale is on record as saying that a GM moratorium would be a serious financial blow to the JIC... He was also, together with Derek Burke and Brian Heap, a Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' Working Party on Genetic Engineering. If the advances made in creating genetically modified foods are not used to increase food output the world could find itself in the grip of a food crisis in as little as 15 years, perhaps even ten, said Professor Mike Gale of the John Innes Centre, one of Europe's largest independent centres for research into plant and microbial science...The current annual production of 1.8 billion tons of cereals must be increased to three billion tons a year, Prof Gale told the BioScience 2004 conference at Glasgow's SECC. He warned: "We have doubled food production over the past half century. Now we have to do it again, but this time we have to do it sustainably. We don't have any more good land and we don't have any more water and we have to use fewer chemicals[10]
Professor Peter Gregory East Malling Research, University of Reading, Centre for Food Security, Walker Institute, Soils Research Centre. East Malling Research chief executive Professor Peter Gregory, argued: 'A lot of what has gone on in public domain has been the exploitation of fear. About two trillion meals containing GM products have been eaten in the past 12 years, yet there's not been a single case of ill health reported'[11]
Dr Wendy Harwood Dr Wendy Harwood is a Senior Scientist responsible for the Crop Transformation Group at the John Innes Centre, Norwich. Her group provides a range of crop transformation resources to the research community, works on improving the methodology for producing GM crops, particularly cereals, and on the safety assessment of GM crops[12]. Dr Wendy Harwood, senior scientist, John Innes Centre, said: ``The full data set has not been made available, but the findings do not contradict previous findings that genetic modification itself is a neutral technology, with no inherent health or environmental risks. ``Without access to the full data, we can only say that these results cannot be interpreted as showing that GM technology itself is dangerous. ``However they do indicate possible concerns over long-term exposure to Roundup that require further study'[13]
Mr David Hill Champollion, Bell Pottinger, The Collective, Bell Pottinger Communications, Good Relations Ltd., Monsanto. For GM, after years of misinformation and scare stories, people find it difficult to accept that their fears about genetically modified foods are groundless – no more valid than concerns about MMR vaccines causing autism. As the American Association for the Advancement of Science recently stated: ‘It is quite clear – crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.’ Most people don't realise that the scientific debate on the safety of GM foods effectively ended a long time ago. In the EU alone, there have been 130 research projects over 25 years, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, none of which have found any evidence of harm. Around the world there have been two trillion GM meals eaten with no ill effects. This is hardly surprising; genetic modification is a more precise method than blasting the seed genome with mutagenic radiation, which is one of the ‘natural’ techniques available to organic seed growers and the basis for all crop improvement. Unlike conventional approaches, GM innovations are screened for potential allergens. Many genetically modified crops, such as blight- and pest-resistant potatoes, could reduce pesticide applications. Take the vitamin A-enhanced ‘golden rice’ that could save tens of thousands of lives per year, but which has been attacked by Greenpeace in what molecular biologist Professor Nina Fedoroff calls a ‘humanitarian abomination’. It is time for the superstition to end, and the ‘environmentalist’ figleaf that it hides behind to be dropped for ever[14]
Professor Roger Hull John Innes Centre Last night Professor Roger Hull, of the John Innes Institute in Norwich, warned that the release of genetically modified viruses into the environment had to be carefully monitored for possible hazards. The risks, he told the meeting, were probably no greater than being killed by falling glass in a Glasgow earthquake, and far less than crossing the road, but added: "Scientists engaged in the work must use sophisticated approaches to reduce that risk"[15]
Professor David James East Malling Research, University of Sheffield, Royal Society. Has received research funding from companies such as Pfizer, Lonza Biologics, Biogen Idec, MedImmune, Asterion, and Pall Corporation. Professor David James, of Horticulture Research International in Kent, said that scientists have isolated a "magic bullet" which stops the bacteria which cause tooth decay from sticking to teeth. The "bullet" is a protein which binds to the surface of the tooth and protects against attack by the bacteria for 80 days by preventing the germs from binding to the enamel. The protein, which does not occur in nature, can be produced by inserting a single gene into plants using GM techniques. Fruit with modified DNA could soon provide a "natural" alter-native to anti-decay medication. Professor James said that the first target will be the apple and the strawberry. "Ideally we would want to deliver this as a raw product," he said. "Fruit is good for you anyway. It is true that there are sugars and acids in apples which are not good for your teeth, but even natural apples are probably, on balance, good for your teeth"[16]
Professor Jonathan Jones Royal Society, Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre (JIC), Two Blades Foundation.[17], Mendel Biotechnology, Norfolk Plant Sciences Ltd, University of East Anglia, EMBO.[18]. Monsanto is an investor and collaborator in Mendel Biotechnology.[19]. Mendel had been granted over 20 biotechnology and GM patents, as listed on its website.[20] Its interests include developing "energy grasses" for biomass and biofuels[21]. In 2009 Medel made two collaborative partnerships: one with Monsanto and the other with Bayer CropScience.[22]. Signatory Professor Jonathan Jones, of the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, says British scientists are creating world-changing crops, but they are being blocked by Europe....Prof Jones said: "It's incredibly frustrating. It deters scientists from doing the work in the first place because they know that it won't get approved. "Even when the science is approved by the European Food Standards Agency, it goes to the Council of Ministers who are inevitably split on political grounds and then it stalls." Britain is fairly enlightened compared with the rest of Europe and will allow initial trials, but Europe cannot seem to get its ducks all in a row so we can move forward[23]
Professor Chris Lamb John Innes Centre, University of East Anglia, University of Edinburgh, Akkadix. "It feels as if we are being given a second chance to explain the potential of genetic modification and as a society we need to get it right this time," says Professor Chris Lamb, the director of the John Innes Centre, Europe's premier research plant and microbial research institute. "Genetic modification of crops is a safe technology. It has the potential to be a powerful tool for improving the sustainability of agriculture and for helping to provide global food security[24]
Professor Chris Leaver University of Oxford, Royal Society, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), John Innes Foundation, Science Media Centre, and Sense About Science. Contrary to the belief of some in the scientific community, Dr Arpad Pusztai does not have horns or a malevolent cackle. Nor does he inhabit an imposing gothic mansion bought with the proceeds of guest appearances as an eco-hero. In fact, he lives in a modest semi in Aberdeen. This elderly man is one of the most divisive figures in biology. Many blame him for tilting the balance in the PR battle over GM food towards public rejection. His research on GM potatoes - which came explosively into the public spotlight in a World in Action programme in August 1998 - has been dismissed as poorly done, muddled and even fabricated. Yet to anti-GM campaigners he is a hero - the scientist who stood up to the establishment and, as a result, had his career squashed at the behest of shadowy forces in the GM industry and the government."I think it did a lot of damage because . . . the vast majority of people were somewhat neutral at the time," said Professor Chris Leaver, a plant scientist and strong supporter of GM at Oxford University. "I think the NGOs . . . decided that they would make a play using him. I think he got hijacked and then he got out of his depth"[25]
Professor Alan Malcolm Oxford International Biomedical Centre, Institute of Biology, Biosciences Federation, Decibell Communications, Institute of Food Research, Flour, Milling and Baking Research Association. Biochemical Society, Scientific and Research Committee of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council, British Nutrition Foundation, Advisory Committee for Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), Food and Drink Technology Foresight Panel. Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Professor Malcolm reminded delegates that with predictions for the rate of world population growth, society was faced with choosing between destroying environmentally sensitive areas such as the Amazon rainforest in order to grow food, or using GM technology to grow food on saline and arid soils, and to increase yields in crops grown on existing farmland[26]
Professor Vivian Moses CropGen, Sense About Science, Scientific Alliance, Spiked, Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London, King's College London, The Centre for Genetic Anthropology at UCL, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. Sir; As predictable as a bank holiday traffic jam is the anti-GM brigade's knee-jerk reaction to any biotech development ('GM 'eel' ice cream a dangerous idea', The Grocer, 1 July, p28). They do it routinely, some obviously trying to defend market share and protect their brand name against a globally successful and rapidly growing technology. In little more than a hundred words, your correspondent claimed the introduction of a low-fat ice cream was "frivolous" (ever heard of "organic" cotton?) and "unwanted" (let the market decide). She questioned whether the new ice cream would be safe. Please may we have evidence? It should not be marketed as healthier, she said, simply because it is low-fat. So on what grounds are so-called organic foods marketed as healthier? On she went: the health impacts of genetic engineering have not been fully tested. Yet they have been looked at a lot more than in organic foods. And finally, the old saw about mystery toxins. No data was offered, just an unsupported allegation, perhaps to counter the recurrent findings of dangerous mycotoxins in organic products which then have to be withdrawn as unsafe[27]
Professor Pat Nuttall University of Oxford, NERC Unit of Invertebrate Virology, which was renamed the Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology (IVEM). No specific quotes related to GM in Nexis search
Ms Ellen Raphael LM network, Sense About Science, Regester Larkin her 'main clients' included 'SST, Transco, Nimir Petroleum, EDF Trading and ICI Argentina for whom she provided general consultancy services. No specific quotes related to GM in Nexis search
Dr Dee Rawsthorne BBSRC, John Innes Centre, IFR, Cornell University. No specific quotes related to GM in Nexis search
Professor Alison Smith John Innes Centre, University of East Anglia. Her current research seeks to discover how plant growth and yield in different environments is coordinated with the assimilation and storage of carbon using biochemical, genetic and molecular biological techniques to study this question in Arabidopsis and in cereals. No specific quotes related to GM in Nexis search
Dr Duncan Stanley Loughborough university, University of Leicester, HortResearch, John Innes Centre. No specific quotes related to GM in Nexis search
Dr Philip Taylor South Darenth Farm, Plantwise, World Agriculture. No specific quotes related to GM in Nexis search
Professor Joyce Tait ESRC Innogen Centre (Innovation in Genomics), ESRC Genomics Survey Advisory Board, a member of the Sustainable Food and Farming Research Priorities Group, DEFRA, the Scottish Science Advisory Council, a Member of the Scientific and Technical Council of the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC), was on the Assessment Panel for the BBSRC Crop Science Initiative and chaired the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party. IDEOLOGICAL pressure groups are getting too much say in the genetically -modified crops debate said a Scottish scientist at the science festival in Glasgow. By obscuring the distinction between ideology and science to confuse the public, said Professor Joyce Tait, organisations such as the organic-farming Soil Association were effectively dictating terms. Professor Tait, director of the Scottish universities' policy research and advice network - which provides science-based advice to a range of clients including the Scottish parliament - said: "It is a strange irony that the Soil Association has been able to dictate terms to government regulators to a greater extent than any other trade association, including the agrochemical industry, has ever achieved - yet it still keeps its public image as the underdog"[28]
Ms Kate Thodey John Innes Centre. Her research focused on the genetic regulation of carbon and energy metabolism in plants. No specific quotes related to GM in Nexis search
Dr Roger Turner British Society of Plant Breeders, Scientific Alliance. He is the beneficiary of a pension from one of Aventis's subsidiaries Rhone Poulenc. "The positive response from trial growers and the audit process is very encouraging," said SCIMAC chairman Dr Roger Turner. "Overall it shows that the guidelines are based on procedures which farmers are familiar with and which do not represent a major departure from current best practice within the industry. "The farm-scale evaluations in the UK have presented a unique opportunity within Europe to apply a set of protocols developed specifically to allow access and choice to both GM and non-GM crop production. This experience, in what is without doubt the largest ever series of co-ordinated field trials in the UK, clearly demonstrates that the SCIMAC approach is workable in practice, robust in safeguarding the integrity of GM and non-GM crops and capable of being audited," he said[29]
Professor Michael Wilson Member of the Scientific Alliance. Chief Executive Horticulture Research International (HRI). Horticulture Research International (HRI) is the UK government's main testing and development arm for market gardening, fruit and related crops. It is said to have the largest single team of horticultural scientists in the world and an income of approximately £24 million per annum. It is classed as a non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) and is responsible to the UK's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA, formerly MAFF). It also receives funding via the BBSRC. It is just dangerous lies. There is no evidence whatsoever and every scientific society has agreed that there is no health hazard and there is no more environmental hazard than growing any other crop. 'I am just staggered and amazed pressure groups have used this issue as a vehicle to attract additional membership.' Prof Wilson said the biotech industry was already flocking abroad, with giants such as Unilever losing interest in GM due to a heavy public backlash[30]


GM guide's two-faced science


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  1. 'Making Sense of GM', Sense About Science, 9 February 2009.
  2. Based on a Nexis search for contributor’s name and “GM”, or just a search for their name if no results returned.
  3. Derek Burke, 'Studies indicate that genetically modified crops are safe for human consumption. Is it time to accept them?', The Times, 27 May 2004.
  4. Alex Lewis, 'Fight for GM crops ban', UK Newsquest Regional Press - This is Local London, 18 March 2004.
  5. Mark Prigg, 'GM crops get all-clear from top scientists', The Evening Standard, 23 June 2005.
  7. Professor Malcolm Elliot, 'People will starve to death because of anti-GM zealotry; The father of the Green Revolution would have supported the GM wheat scientists at Rothamsted, argues Prof Malcolm Elliot', The Telegraph, 23 May 2012.
  8. 'Farmers frustrated after MEPs pave way for GM bans', Horticulture Week, 22 April 2011.
  9. Robin McKie, 'Comment & Debate: As the world begins to starve it's time to take GM seriously: With the Earth's population continuing to soar, it will be the poor who go hungry, not the eco-warriors destroying modified crops', The Observer, 27 April 2008.
  10. James Reynolds, 'WORLD WILL NEED GM FOOD, WARNS EXPERT', The Scotsman, 21 july 2004.
  11. 'Industry figures debate GM merits at Hadlow College', Horticulture Week, 27 June 2014.
  12. See 'Wendy Harwood staff profile', Sense About Science, accessed 27 April 2015.
  13. Emily Beament, 'EXPERTS CRITICISE GM CROP STUDY', Press Association Mediapoint, 19 September 2012.
  14. Liz Falkingham, 'Is It Time to Accept GM?', Country Living, July 2013.
  15. Alan Macdermid, 'Scientists burrow at use of virus as a 'mole, 13 August 1993.
  16. Michael Hanlon, 'HOW A GM APPLE A DAY COULD HELP KEEP YOUR DENTIST AWAY', The Express, 9 September 2000.
  17. Science Advisory Board, Two Blades Foundation website, acc 7 Jul 2010
  18. Science Advisory Board, Two Blades Foundation website, acc 7 Jul 2010
  19. "Monsanto, Mendel Biotechnology sign deal", St. Louis Business Journal, April 28 2008, accessed September 2009.
  20. Issued patents, Mendel Biotechnology website, acc 8 July 2010
  21. Mendel Biotechnology Annual Report 2008, p 4, acc 8 Jul 2010
  22. Dear Shareholder, Mendel Biotechnology Annual Report 2009, p. 4, acc 8 Jul 2010
  23. Sarah Knapton, 'Genetically modified crops are the future and must not be blocked, say scientists; Genetically modified crops are being blocked on political rather than scientific grounds, botanists warn, as they call on Europe to end regulation', The Telegraph, 30 October 2014.
  24. Paul Vallely, 'Strange fruit?; It's a decade since GM products were hurriedly swept from UK shops after a panic about their safety. In the meantime, GM crops have been widely - and successfully - cultivated elsewhere. So is it time we embraced the new food? The GM debate', Independent Magazine, 18 April 2009.
  25. James Randerson, 'Education: Biological divide: Interview: Arpad Pusztai: The scientist at the centre of a storm over GM foods 10 years ago tells James Randerson he is unrepentant' The Guardian, 15 January 2008.
  26. Carol Trewin, 'Firework firm's latest move is rejected: GM crops condemned as war against nature', Western Morning News (Plymouth), 7 January 2000.
  27. Vivian Moses, 'Biotechs get an unfair hearing', The Grocer, 29 July 2006.
  28. Fordyce Maxwell, 'GM PROTESTERS FAVOURED', The Scotsman, 5 September 2001.
  29. 'Major boost for management of GM and non-GM crops', Farmers Guardian, 2 May 2003.