GM Free Cymru

Beware the Rise of Stalinist Science.

An Open Letter to Mark Lynas

10th February 2013

Dear Mark,

Beware the Rise of Stalinist Science.

I want to address just one issue arising from your recent high-profile conversion into a GM evangelist. Intriguingly and bizarrely, you have tried to call attention (in the last day or two) to a letter sent to the Journal "Food and Chemical Toxicology" some months ago by a group of GM zealots. Fair enough, you might think; people write letters to journals all the time, in the true spirit of academic debate. But this letter was different, for it was signed by 25 "scientists" and demanded of the journal editor that he should retract one of the most important papers ever published in the field of GMO safety studies -- namely the one by Seralini and his colleagues which rocked the GM scientific community in September 2012. The journal is a highly reputable one, and apparently the Seralini paper was properly reviewed without any "red light" warnings from the reviewers, and published according to normal academic protocols. So to ask for the paper to be retracted, disowned or withdrawn by the journal is something quite extraordinary.

So what's going on here? It's instructive to look through the list of signatories on the letter. They include Nina Fedoroff, Bruce Chassy, Val Giddings, Alan McHughen, Ingo Potrykus, Marc Fellous, CS Prakash, Henry Miller, Klaus Ammann, Anthony Trewavas, and Chris Leaver -- all GM zealots, some of whom have participated in previous campaigns of personal vilification against scientists whose views they find to be inconvenient. McHughen was the man involved in the "Triffid" flax scandal in Canada some years ago, which left the Canadian flax industry bereft of its global market. Chassy, Giddings and McHughen were involved in the infamous Nature Biotechnology "set-up" of researcher Irina Ermakova in 2007, which was one of the most serious breaches of publication ethics we have ever seen. Ammann and Prakash are known for their roles in seeking to break down the regulatory system for GM crops, and for their attacks on Chapela and Quist after their paper on the GM contamination of Mexican maize was published in "Nature". Trewavas is known for his vitriolic attacks on organic agriculture and for playing a leading role in the campaign to get "Nature" to retract the Chapela / Quist paper. We could go on........

What we are seeing here is a deeply unpleasant and even sinister campaign to restrict the freedom of academics to undertake research and to publish freely through the established peer-reviewed journals. Are you happy with that? I cannot believe so. But more and more independent scientists who write in the GM field are being subjected to personal and professional vilification by this small group of individuals who act as rottweilers for the GM industry and who appear to have forgotten what the term "scientific ethics" actually means. The list of those who are the victims of these witch-hunts grows longer and longer -- Arpad Pusztai, Irina Ermakova, Mae-wan Ho, Andres Carrasco, Manuela Malatesta, Ignacio Chapela, Bela Darvas, Angelika Hilbeck, Gilles-Eric Seralini, and Don Huber, to name but a few. And what are the crimes for which they are burned at the stake? Why, simply to have uncovered evidence that GM crops and the herbicides associated with them might not actually be as safe as the GM industry would have us believe. One would have thought that an ethical scientific community might have been rather interested in such research findings, arising from a broad concern for public health.......... but no, the view within the industry is that GM crops and foods are harmless, and that nothing must be allowed to disturb that central ruling hypothesis.

Back to Stalinist science. There is clear evidence of an attempt by powerful corporate interests (and by the GM research community as well) to control the scientific agenda and to influence the scientific publication process. It is clear to us that Fedoroff, Chassy, Giddings and their colleagues want to shut off independent GM research, and they want to impose a sort of authoritarian or establishment control over the journals which publish in their chosen field. They are prepared to stop at nothing, attacking not only the scientists whose papers they cannot stomach, but also the editors who have the temerity to publish their research findings. Their arrogance is quite staggering, and they deserve nothing but contempt, for what they are proposing is an authoritarian control of the science agenda and a world in which "scientific orthodoxy" reigns and in which "mavericks" and "witches" are burned at the stake. I thought we had given up on such things in the Middle Ages............. but apparently not.

As for the 25 scientists who signed that letter to the Editor of"Food and Chemical Toxicology", they have already been given short shrift by Seralini and his colleagues, who have systematically demolished every single petulant and absurd point made by their abusers. Let us hope that they will now put up or shut up. If they still do not like the Seralini study findings, they can always go away and improve upon it, and come back and tell the world in five years' time what they have discovered. Fat chance of that happening.

Nice friends you have, Mr Lynas.........


Brian John GM-Free Cymru