OPEN LETTER ISIS Letter 20/11/09
Dr. Judy Carman, senior scientist working in the field of epidemiology in Australia and awarded a government grant to study the safety of GM feed, has been subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification by individuals associated withthe biotech industry, with the clear intention of preventingher from carrying out the research. Political pressure is nowbeing brought to bear on her research by the current Agriculture and Food Minister of Western Australia.
Dr. Carman is not an isolated case. A long string of scientists beginning with Arpad Puszati, Susan Bardocz, Shiv Chopra, Ignacio Chapela, Irina Ermakova, and more has suffered the same attackswhen their research or laboratory findings are deemed unfavourable to thebiotech industry; they have also lost their grants or their jobs as a result.
It is important for scientists to make a stand for real science,and for the right of scientists to do research without being harassed and intimidated, or losing their grants or positions. The public will not be well-served unless this academic freedom to do research independent of industry or the whims of government is guaranteed.
[[ NOTE: AT THE TIME OF SENDING THIS LETTER HAD 29 SIGNATORIES. THIS TOTAL HAS NOW GONE UP TO 70 SIGNATORIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD.]]
From: Scientists concerned about academic freedom (see list of signatories below)
Honourable Colin Barnett MEc MLA Premier Government of Western Australia 24th Floor, Governor Stirling Tower, 197 St Georges Terrace PERTH WA 6000
The Hon Kevin Rudd MP Prime Minister Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600
Hon Terrry Redman MLA Minister, Dept of Agriculture and Food Government of Western Australia 3 Baron-Hay Court South Perth WA 6151 firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Mike Daube President, Public Health Association of Australia Keep Australia Beautiful Building Units 2 & 3, 20 Napier Close Deakin ACT 2600 email@example.com
Dr. Robert Williamson, AO, Ph.D, Hon MK (Turku), FAA, FRCPath, FRS Australian Academy of Science Ian Potter House Gordon Street Canberra 2601 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Barnett,
In 2005, the Government of Western Australia awarded a research grant worth $92,000 to researchers at the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, nowbased in Adelaide, Southern Australia . In announcing it, the then Agriculture Minister, Kim Chance, said that "the WA Government will fund an independent long-term animal feeding trial to gain data on the safety or otherwise of GM food crops".
Far from welcoming the study, the biotech industry sought to block it, initially by writing to the WA government in an effort to get the government to reverse its funding decision, then by either refusing to supply GM crops to the research team or placing such onerous conditions upon the supply of the GM crops that the researchers could not sign up to the conditions . In addition, the lead scientist has been subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification and harassment by commercial interests connected with the biotech industry.
The present Minister of Agriculture, Terry Redman, is now interfering in the research by demanding details about the location of the study laboratories, its research protocols and its progress to date. It is hard to see any legitimate reason for this interference. Information about the procedures was available when the grant was proposed, and it is most unusual for a government or indeed anyone else to demand to see the results of work that is not yet completed. The Minister’s hostility to the line of research is well known from when he was in opposition; he is wrong to use his current position to obstruct science which was commissioned before he took office.
It is wrong, though perhaps not surprising, that the biotechnology industry should be seeking to obstruct research into the safety of what they produce , and promoting the vilification and harassment of any scientist conducting such research . It is indefensible for a government to do the same. We call on the Government of Western Australia to stop this unprecedented interference with the research it has commissioned and to ensure that the project will proceed unhindered. We also call on the Government of Australia to require biotechnology companies to make available to independent researchers the material they need for their work.
The citizens of Australia, like those of other countries, will not be well served unless academic freedom is guaranteed for scientists to work independently of biotechnology companies or the whims of governments . It is not possible to take proper decisions on GMOs if the only evidence on which to base those decisions comes from scientists who work for or are chosen by the biotechnology industry.
1. “Long term feeding trials funded by WA to run in SA” Wednesday, November 30, 2005’
Jenifer Eliot in The West Australian, November 28, 2005, reports that the study will be by South Australia's Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER), http://www.iher.org.au/
2. Pro-GM scientists, some paid by biotech companies have been aiding and abetting in the harassment and vilification of independent scientists and researchers of IHER see Letter from 12 scientists to the Premier of Western Australia, The HonDr Geoff Gallop, BEc MA MPhil DPhil MLA 5 December 2005,
also Food Safety Western Australia Style: A Note from Ian Edwards, 25 June 2007,
“Call for inquiry into GM feed study funding”, Colin Bettles, Farm Weekly, Australia, 12 Nov 2009,
3. The biotech companies are notorious for their attempt to block research deemed unfavourable to GMOs. The following statement was submitted in February 2009 to the US Environmental protection Agency (EPA) by scientists who had been invited to submit comments on a meeting to discuss two new BM crops. They were protesting the ‘technology/stewardship agreements’ they have to sign, which inhibit them from doing research for the public good. As a result “no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology.” We are not aware that any of the 26 is opposed in principle to GM crops. http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#documentDetail ?R=090000648084de39
See http://www.i-sis.org.uk/corporateMonopolyOfScience.php; also the article by Andrew Pollack, New York Times, 20 February 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/business/20crop.html?_r=1
And “GM Research Blocking GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans Scientific Tests Must Be Approved by Industry First”, by F. William Engdahl, Global Research, July 29, 2009 http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14570
“Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research? Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops. That restriction must end” By The Editors, August 2009 Scientific American Magazine, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research
4. Harassment of independent researchers by pro-GM scientists is rife and takes place in the pages of ‘learned’ journals that have become effectively trade magazines
What is Nature Biotechnology good for? The Bioscience Resource Project, 4 December 2007, http://www.bioscienceresource.org/commentaries/article.php?id=16
The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science - Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity by Don Lotter Int. Jrnl. of Soc. of Agr. & Food, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 50-68, http://www.bioscienceresource.org/commentaries/article.php?id=16
Systematic bias in favour of no adverse impacts from GM feed, ISIS, 7 January 2008, http://www.i-sis.org.uk/NatureBiotechnologyLetterErmakova.php
Marshall, A. (2007) Nature Biotechnology 25: pp 981-98;
Heinemann, JA and Traavik, T, letter, Nature Biotechnology 25 (12), p1356, http://www.bioscienceresource.org/commentaries/article.php? id=16; http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/rottweiler.htm; http://www.woz.ch/artikel/inhalt/2007/nr44/Wissen/15584.html ; http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/involvement_ermakova.htm
Ironically the same learned journals are decrying the vilification of independent researchers by pro-GM scientists. See “GM crops: Battlefield” by Emily Waltz, Nature 2009, 461, 27-32, http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090902/full/461027a.html?s=news_rss
5. On academic freedom, the Australian Academy of Science wrote as follows, in a submission to a Senate Committee Inquiry into academic freedom.
“1. Science makes the most significant advances in an atmosphere of free and critical discussion. Therefore, academic freedom is of crucial importance, particularly in research at universities, institutes and CSIRO.
2. Governments and their representatives have a responsibility to set general research priorities on behalf of their citizens. However, it is inappropriate for governments and their representatives to interfere with scientific peer review processes or with details of academic debate. That is the role of the academic sector.
3. In very rare cases, it may be appropriate for government to implement ‘reserve powers’ to direct research. This may be the case with some research that has security implications. However, it is inappropriate for governments and their representatives to interfere in genuine academic debate and to intervene with the grant processes of the ARC, NHMRC or CSIRO." (Letter signed by Professor Philip W. Kuchel, FAA, Secretary, Science Policy)
Dr Michael Antoniou Head: Nuclear Biology Group King’s College London School of Medicine UK
Dr. Barbara Ann Barrett Scientists for Global Responsibility UK
Prof. Ann Clark Department of Plant Agriculture University of Guelph Canada
Dr. Shiv Chopra Ex-Health Canada Author of Corrupt to the Core, Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower Canada
Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury Gonoshasthaya Kendra House 14E, Road 6 Dhanmandi R.A., Dhaka 1205 Bangladesh
Prof. Joe Cummins Emeritus Prof. of Genetics University of Western Ontario Canada
Dr. Jose L. Domingo Professor of Toxicology Laboratory of Toxicology and Environmental Health School of Medicine “Rovira i Virgili” University Catalonia, Spain
Dr. Irina Ermakova Russian Academy of Sciences institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology Russia
Dr. Stanley WB Ewen Consultant Pathologist Aberdeen Royal Infirmary UK
Dr. Alan Fredeen Nova Scotia Canada
Prof. Adrian Gibbs FAA, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australia
Dr. Jack A. Heinemann Director INBI Prof. School of Biological Sciences University of Canterbury New Zealand
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho Director Institute of Science in Society London UK
Prof. Vyvyan Howard MB. ChB. PhD. FRCPath. Biomedical Science Research Institute Ulster University Northern Ireland UK
Dr. Brian John Retired Lecturer in Geography University of Durham UK
Prof. Sheldon Krimsky Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning School of Arts & Sciences Department of Public Health and Community Medicine School of Medicine Tufts University Medford USA
Dr. Eva Novotny Retired, Formerly Research Associate in Astronomy Cambridge University UK
Dr. Jose Ramon Olarieta Lecturer in Soil Science Universitat de Lleida Spain
Prof. Dr. ER Oskov OBE FRSE Director of International Feed Resource Unit Macaulay Land Use Institute UK
Dr. Michel Pimbert Director Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Programme IIED, London UK
Dr. Naheeda Portocarero Animal nutritionist Maesyronen Farmhouse Glasbury-on-Wye UK
Prof. Leda Raptis Dept of Microbiology and Immunology Dept of Pathology Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario Canada
Dr. Barry T Rubin Davis Rubin Associates Ltd Member of Scientists for Global Responsibility UK
Prof. Peter Saunders Emeritus Prof. of Applied Mathematics King’s College, London UK
Dr. David Schubert Professsor Salk Institute for Biological Studies La Jolla Ca USA
Dr Mira Shiva M.D Director Initiative for Health, Equity & Society, Chairperson Consumer Education safety of Food & Medicine South Asian Focal Point International Peoples Health Council New Delhi India
Dr. Vandana Shiva Navdanya Recipient of Right Livelihood Award New Delhi India
Dr. David Suzuki Emeritus professor Sustainable Development Research Institute University of British Columbia Canada
Dr. Enric Tello Professor of Economic History and Institutions Head of the Dept. of Economic History and Institutions at the Universitat de Barcelona Spain