GM Free Cymru

GMOs and the subversion of science

Date Added to website 1st May 2014

Note: This is a very thoughtful piece on the manner in which the GMO scientific enterprise has become subverted and even corrupted because of the corporatisation of research and the powerful conflicts of interest that are now revealed at every turn in the GM science literature. Biotech scientists are not only sucked into a system in which they are required to build bias into their research and screen out any "inconvenient" results -- but they are also sucked into a political game (if that is the right word) in which those who do conduct independent research are ridiculed and vilified, and even accused of having an anti-science agenda. Even worse, these "opponents" who seek to tell the truth are simply labelled as being "activists"............. Little wonder then that the credibility of scientists and science itself continues to slide............

Environmental and Food Justice Devon Pena

GEO Watch | Protegendisque scientifica

Moderator's Note: There are thousands in the professional ranks of scientists who have cast their lot with Monsanto et al under deals involving corporate sponsorship of research. When you are seen as selling out, and thus riddled with conflicts of interest, there are consequences: One is the erosion of the public credibility of scientists seen as blemished by their association with powerful corporate interests. As a result, they are increasingly plagued by a declining lack of legitimacy in the public sphere. Biotech scientists are increasingly perceived as servants of power guilty of "screening factual evidence".

Friends of the Earth (FOE) - Europe has released a report on GMO crops that describes in detail the structure of benefits accruing from the deployment of agricultural biotechnologies. There are few surprises here since the primary benefits continue to accrue to profit-driven corporations peddling a magical elixir to the market to the tune of the song of approval sung by self-anointed scientific experts – the choirboys and girls (think Ann Glover) of corporate legitimation.

There is a subtext to the FOE report that fascinates me because it reflects this notion of the legitimation crisis. McLemee (2007) explains this most enduring of Jürgen Habermas's concepts for the critical study of modernity. The legitimation crisis …refers to periods when…the 'organizational principle' of a society does not permit the resolution of problems that are critical for its continued existence….The viability of a regime has gone seriously into question when it feels threatened by its own young people[…] The FOE-Europe report released earlier today (reference below) details a pattern of global decline in the approval of GMO crops – and I predict this will become even more salient with the millennial generational shift underway. I believe one reason for the GMO science legitimation crisis is that the risk scientists who have sold their expertise to the highest corporate bidder are finally becoming incapable of obscuring the truth by cherry-picking the evidence in order to serve their corporate masters. They are victims of their own Protegendisque scientifica.

Scientific facts versus biotech myths: The irrefutable fact of gene flow; the growing evidence of environmental and public health harm associated with the use of transgenic crop technologies and the toxic biocides tied to their deployment; the blatant corporate disregard and in some places governmental (USA, Brazil, Argentina) disrespect that allows for continued attacks on the viability and survival of traditional farming systems, traditional environmental knowledge, agroecology, and smallholder communities; the advent of super-bug and super-weed resistance to the chemical cocktails and built-in defenses of transgenic technologies; the displacement of indigenous farmers and their knowledge systems through land grabs, bio-piracy, and the imposition of an immoral patenting regime; a shift to anti-democratic investor-state treaties that impose a country club-styled regime of privatized neo-regulation. All these and many more harmful and disparate social, cultural, and ecological impacts are part of the litany of problems being uncovered by social and natural scientific evidence after decades of failure by advocates of commercial agricultural biotechnologies.

The scientists for hire who are employed by Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, and all the others are paid to ignore or dismiss anything and anyone that disagrees with the unquestioned promotion of a technology that is at a minimum already established as a gene flow risk to traditional plant breeders and seed savers and increasingly as a direct and significant contributing factor to a wide range of environmental and public health problems – see GMO Evidence.

The corporate-sponsored scientists are experiencing a legitimation crisis of their own and it is tied to their vested relationship with failed and dangerous technologies. For 30+ years, these scientists defended transgenic crops and other rDNA technologies knowing well at the start that there was a complete void in predictive ecology without which there can be no complete science-based risk assessment. That data is only now coming in and it is bad news for the proponents of agricultural biotechnologies including transgenic crops based on Bt insecticidal proteins as well as those engineered [sic] for glyphosate resistance.

These scientists have lost credibility because they have allowed selfish pecuniary motives to interfere with respect for the norms of scientific inquiry. Every time Monsanto or Syngenta bewitch a young scientist to join their employ, they are essentially being asked to be animated as much by the pursuit of speculation as service to the pursuit of scientific truth.

Now that they have failed to convince the public of their objectivity and the inaccuracy of their misrepresented scientific data; now having therefore also failed to deliver scientific evidence to support corporate goals. What do the biotech scientists do? They have turned to attacking their critics as being anti-science. This is sheer neoliberal spooking masquerading as scientific expertise, a brutal form of epistemological violence rightly denounced and inverted by Mary Daly (Gyn/Ecology).

A message to young scientists: I have been instructed to deliver a message to young scientists from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous and allows that he self-identifies as an Ethiopian environmental refugee living in North Seattle. It is a message directed, he said, to the professional and academic practitioners of protegendisque scientifica:

"We are still waiting for you to fulfill a promise you made 30 years ago that pledged our salvation from hunger if we all just grew and ate the same GMO crops". Instead: "…Under you the hunger population has grown by many millions and now numbers more than 1 billion persons. Most are children and women."

I have a companion question: How many decades does a failed scientific paradigm get to dominate the agriculture, food/nutrition, environment, and economic values despite the social injustice it spawns through the destruction of the cultural and ecological diversity of the planet?

Friends of the Earth International, Who Benefits from GM crops, an industry built on myths, April 2014: