River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The GM Debat

August 2003

A sharp response to previous items on GM!

Dear Ray,

The GM Debate

I feel that I must complain about the treatment which my article received in the July Pump. Firstly, in his reply, Brian Harrison succumbed to the temptation to "break" his "own rules" and abuse his "privileged position" in order to pre-empt my article. Secondly, the feeling of being hijacked was made all the stronger by his reply being placed 7 pages before the original article! Furthermore, I noticed that Mr. Harrison was allowed to emphasise 2 of his points by printing the words TOTALLY and Canola in bold print. In the places where I had done the same, the emphasis was removed. Neither was I happy with the new layout given to the article, which, compared to my original, made the overall effect look disjointed; in particular where the second paragraph on page 43 was split, in mid-sentence, into 2 paragraphs!

Mr. Harrison's comment that "The letter from Cyril Marsters, although well written, ..." comes across as condescending. Next, I by no means accept that he has demonstrated the truth of his statement that I gave "many errors and much misinformation." Most of the points he made in his letter about GM crops are, at present, still very debatable with many questions unanswered. However, that is not my main reason for replying; some of his other assertions need rejoinders!

In his reference to the Soil Association report, which I had quoted, Mr. Harrison attaches great significance to pointing out that the SA is "TOTALLY against the introduction of GM crops..." (his emphasis) and he follows this by saying: "Their report...could be said to prove an already determined argument." Now, is he implying that because the SA is against GM that its report is automatically bound to be flawed? What an argument! I agree that the SA is totally against the introduction of GM and the reason is quite simple. In common with other organic bodies, it is a basic principle of the SA that as far as possible we should work with natural processes - which have evolved over many thousands of years - and not disrupt them artificially. GM, which is engineered in a completely un-natural way is, quite logically, banned under the SA's organic standards to uphold their principles.

Now, I could reverse the argument and say that I see great significance in the fact that Monsanto and the other geo-tech. corporations are TOTALLY pro-GM. Would I not be entitled (on the same basis as Brian Harrison's gibe at the Soil Association and their report) to say that the statements issued by the GM companies about their products, are equally "to prove an already determined argument"?

However, I will refrain from that kind of polemic, for it is not helpful in achieving the "balanced debate" on GM which Mr. Harrison says that he hopes to see in the future!

Having studied the report, I concluded that the information about the serious problems experienced by many US and Canadian farmers was well researched and well founded. Furthermore, in spite of some different conditions in North America, it is very clear from the report that there are many problems which would similarly affect our own farmers in the UK. It was for this reason that I briefly quoted from the report summary and recommended that farmers here should read it before making up their minds on whether to grow GM. After all, they, like consumers, need to consider both sides of the debate - do they not?

On the matter of potential HEALTH problems from eating GM, Mr. Harrison comments that GM products being introduced "have all passed every requirement imposed by every relevant authority." This may be true, but it is not good enough. Current testing techniques lag far behind the new GM technology. GM crops are only tested at the chemical level, to establish what is termed 'substantial equivalence'. The tests do not ask the questions relevant to the DNA itself! Incidentally (if I may be allowed a final 'quote'), the Guardian of 17th July 2002 reported as follows:-

"British scientific researchers have demonstrated for the first time that genetically modified DNA material from crops is finding its way into human gut bacteria, raising potentially serious health problems."

This is precisely the kind of reason why I raised the question of possible health hazards of GM, when I quoted from a biology textbook, plus items by the two Drs. Antoniou and Ho. I did not produce the quotes simply "to match (my) views" - as Mr. Harrison accuses me - but to highlight important questions. My 'views' on those questions will become clearer when I get some sensible answers! Mr. Harrison's snide remarks in calling one of these Drs. "notorious", and both of them "vociferous campaigners against GM" does absolutely nothing to promote his "balanced debate", nor give any answers to the health problems they raise. Neither does it reduce the authority with which they are able to speak on GM, for they both have extensive knowledge and experience of the subject, as Mr. Harrison might appreciate if he checks on their qualifications.

My one hope is that in future Mr. Harrison might refrain from his gibes, such as 'Luddites', 'Notorious' or 'Vociferous' scientists, 'Biased Quotes', 'Selective Reports' and 'Scare Tactics' and concentrate instead on the important matters which GM raises. It can hardly be a genuine debate, if one cannot raise important questions about GM, which at present are unresolved, without being treated to epithets and coloured terms such as the above. GM is going to affect our children and grandchildren long into the future; we owe it to them to get it right!

Cyril Marsters

Editor's Note. Your complaint that the response preceded your initial letter is fully justified Cyril. Please accept my apologies. As for the lack of emboldened type, that was the result of transfer of data between computers in the publishing process. Ray

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