GM Free Cymru

More Nonsense from Monsanto

Open Letter

Tony Combes Esq
Director of Corporate Affairs
Monsanto UK Ltd 6th December 2005

Dear Tony

More Nonsense from Monsanto

We refer to the comments made today in the Western Mail, in which you accuse us of knowingly making false allegations -- in effect, of lying. We are not amused, and we want an apology. We refer to the points below:

"Tony Combes is director of corporate affairs with GM company Monsanto UKLtd. He said it was impossible to draw meaningful conclusions from the first twostudies without a full description of the methodology they used and a full review of their findings by other scientists."

We never pretended that the Ermakova and Malatesta studies were fully written up and peer reviewed. But they were perfectly justified in drawing attention to their findings, which appear to show potentially damaging physiological changes associated with GM food. It would have been irresponsible of them to have said nothing. And how dare you belittle those studies and those scientists? Since when did Monsanto give full descriptions of the methodologies used in its studies, and since when did they allow full review of all their studies by other scientists? Those papers that have gone forward for peer review have been carefully selected as part of your "no harm" promotional campaign over the last decade. In fact, you moved heaven and earth to prevent other scientists from seeing your full 90-day rat feeding study on MON863. And we are quite aware that recently when other scientists have had a chance to look at Monsanto studies your experiments have been slated as biased and poorly designed, and as being carefully crafted to give the desired results........

"And he said the CSIRO decision to halt research and destroy the GM pea that inflamed lung tissue in laboratory mice showed how the regulatory system wasworking exactly as intended." This is nonsense. As confirmed by the Australian Government, the regulatory system did not come in to play at all with the pea study. If it had, the GM pea would probably have been approved! The findings must have been VERY serious for the research team at CSIRO to call an immediate halt to their research. And to repeat the point we made -- how many GM varieties have been developed, tested internally by Monsanto, and pulled because of damage to test animals? Would you like to tell us? "Mr Combes said claims of fatalities and ill-health among people and cattlehad been disproved." By whom? Would you like to give us chapter and verse in support of your claim that there were no deaths attributable to L-tryptophan, no health problems related to Starlink and the Flavr-savr tomato or to Bt cotton, and no problems related to BST (bovine growth hormone) or Bt maize in cattle? "All of these allegations are just as false as GM Free Cymru's absurdallegation that I was once employed by Defra," said Mr Combes.


We are outraged that a company like Monsanto, with a long and well-documented history of corporate misbehaviour, should accuse us of lying (1). And for the record, we never alleged that you were employed by DEFRA. What we did was enquire of DEFRA whether you had ever answered incoming phone calls from members of the public on GM matters, and on what basis. We have it on record from a member of the public that when she rang DEFRA she was amazed that you were the man who answered the phone. Of course that has been denied by DEFRA -- we are not surprised! What we do know is that there was a cosy -- and  improper - relationship for a number of years between DEFRA and the GM industry. For example, we know that Judith Jordan of Aventis and  Graham Davis of DEFRA travelled to a meeting about two FSE sites in  Mathry, Pembs, in the same car. Was that simply a noble attempt to  save fuel? We doubt it.

"They need to read, mark and learn from the scientific literature rather than relying on media reports of other single-issue pressure groups."

What an arrogant and insulting statement! We venture to suggest that we read, mark and understand as much of the scientific literature as you do, and that our contacts in the scientific community are rather more likely to give us sound and independent advice as to the significance of certain publications than are the paid employees of Monsanto. It is certainly our impression that "single issue pressure groups" are often better informed on the science of GM than are
spokesmen such as yourself and even DEFRA civil servants -- and we take  it as read that NGOs are more likely to tell the truth. Their members  and science advisers are, after all, unpaid and concerned members of the public. You and your colleagues are paid nice fat salaries to say what you are required to say, and the public knows perfectly well that you will NEVER say anything which might negatively affect corporate profits. It is also our conviction that Monsanto is perfectly capable of hiding from public view any negative health affects revealed within its own laboratories, and of lying through its teeth to protect itself.Finally, having come onto the discussion of scientific literature, may we suggest that when you send off your little list of "wants" to Father Christmas this year, you ask him for a copy of "Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals", ed Mosenthin et al (2005 -- only £145); Jeffrey Smith's book "Seeds of deception"; the report entitled "Monsanto v US Farmers" from the Center for Food Safety; and a copy of Prof David Schubert's article called "Response to Bradford et al." That's a reasonable reading list to start with, and once you have coped with those items we will be happy to suggest other essential items for your Christmas reading.

We look forward to receiving our apology in the near future.

Yours sincerely,

Brian John
GM Free Cymru

(1) In 1998 Monsanto endeavoured to stop publication of the ground breaking book 'Against The Grain: The Genetic Transformation of Global Agriculture' by Dr Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey together with The  Ecologist special edition ' The Monsanto Files'. In the event 'Against The Grain' was published by Common Courage Press in the US, then  Earthscan in the UK, whilst the ' The Monsanto Files' saw the light of  day from the presses of an alternative printer. Monsanto must be one  of the least popular corporations on the planet, and the number of times it has been accused of lies, deception, bribery and other misdemeanours by farmers, scientists and members of the public is a challenge even for Google. A sample of web pages herewith, which you may not have seen: 


Ban these GM foods now'

Dec 6 2005

Steve Dube, Western Mail

THREE new studies into the health effects of GM foods have triggered fresh demands for GM components in human food and animal feed to be banned immediately.

The first of the key studies, conducted by Russian scientist Irina Ermakova, shows that 55% of the offspring of rats fed on GM soya died within three weeks of birth, compared with only 9% in the control group. 

The second, conducted by Manuela Malatesta and colleagues in the  Universities of Pavia and Urbino in Italy, showed that mice fed on GM soya experienced a slowdown in cellular metabolism and modifications to liver and pancreas.

The third study, by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation CSIRO in Australia showed that the introduction of genes from a bean variety into a GM pea led to the creation of a novel protein which caused inflammation of the lung tissue of mice. The damage was so serious that the research was halted, and stocks of the GM
pea have been destroyed. The developers have now promised that the variety will never be marketed.

The three studies, which have all been published in scientific literature in the past few weeks, have caused widespread alarm because two of them suggest that GM soya - used in a large number of foods and cattle feed - might be  dangerous.

The campaign group GM Free Cymru says the studies also appear to confirm the findings of Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Stanley Ewen, whose paper on  physiological changes in rats fed on GM potatoes caused a sensation in 1999.

The authors were widely vilified and Dr Pusztai was sacked, his research team was dismantled, and his funding stopped following an alleged intervention from the Prime Minister's office.

The Ewen/Pusztai research has never been repeated to establish its scientific veracity but Dr Brian John of GM Free Cymru, pictured, said there was now overwhelming evidence of deaths attributable to GM products among laboratory
and farm animals and in the human population. In the most deadly case of all, the premature release of the GM food
supplement L-tryptophan in the USA led to a large number of human deaths - estimated at more than 100 - and the development of a new disease, eosinophilia  myalgia syndrome, or EMS, which afflicted up to 10,000 people.

When StarLink maize, intended for animal fodder, found its way into the US human food chain in 2000, there was a massive food scare when it was realised that it was capable of triggering severe allergic reactions. The crop was
recalled, and $9m was paid out in compensation.

"We will never know how many GM varieties have been developed and then quietly abandoned before reaching the regulatory process as a result of deaths or physiological damage during animal feeding trials, since studies by Monsanto,
Syngenta and the other GM corporations are conducted in-house and under conditions of great secrecy," said Dr John.

"But we do know of at least seven cases where GM varieties have been withdrawn because of direct evidence of health damage, and there are many instances of human and animal deaths arising from GM feeding trials and premature
release onto the market of GM products.

"Yet the GM industry, and the UK and EC regulators who are charged with the protection of the public, seem to live in a permanent state of denial."

He accused the European Commission of basing its decisions to approve GM crops on highly selective research carried out by the GM companies.

But he said the new studies showed that more research was needed into the health effects of eating genetically modified food.

"Neither the UK government nor the European Commission can pretend any longer that GM foods are harmless," he said.

"They must stop singing from the hymn-sheets provided for them by the GM industry, and recognise that they have a legal duty to protect residents and consumers.

"There must be no further GM consents, and GM foodstuffs must be banned immediately - at least until such time that independent research on animals and humans gives GM a clean bill of health."

Academic experts are backing their call for more research.

Professor Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the School of Sciences in the University of Sunderland, said genetic modification of food was not without danger to the consumer.

"They may be affected by genetic changes that subsequently lead to serious chronic illnesses such as cancer and chronic inflammatory disease," he said.

"Further independent studies, divorced from any influence of government or corporations, are now imperative and urgent."

Prof Vyvyan Howard is Professor of Bioimaging at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ulster.

He said, "We need to change the focus of the debate away from the limited studies that have been done to date onto the size of the irreversible legacy that we are probably going to leave for future generations."

Tony Combes is director of corporate affairs with GM company Monsanto UK Ltd. He said it was impossible to draw meaningful conclusions from the first two studies without a full description of the methodology they used and a full
review of their findings by other scientists.

And he said the CSIRO decision to halt research and destroy the GM pea that inflamed lung tissue in laboratory mice showed how the regulatory system was working exactly as intended.

Mr Combes said claims of fatalities and ill-health among people and cattle had been disproved.

"All of these allegations are just as false as GM Free Cymru's absurd allegation that I was once employed by Defra," said Mr Combes. 

"They need to read, mark and learn from the scientific literature rather  than relying on media reports of other single-issue pressure groups."