Feeding hysteria over food science
Montreal Gazette – 20.02.2000
Column by Tommy Schnurmacher
There is no pleasure greater than helping a colleague.
Last Sunday, I was avidly reading The Gazette, only to find Lyle Stewart thanking me for providing him with "another opportunity to launch into the sound-science debate over GMOs."
Ably demonstrating a keen mastery of leftist legerdemain, Stewart described my column as "an enthusiastic endorsement of genetically modified food."
Appearances to the contrary, the only foods for which I have recently expressed any endorsement are tiramisu, Hungarian palacsinta and my mother's chicken soup Friday night.
When it comes to genetically modified foods, my Greenpeace comrades have yet to provide any solid evidence that they are harmful. Nor is there any smoking gun to indicate that that Dr. Evil has taken over Monsanto to rule the world.
Many respectable scientists feel that GMOs can help alleviate world hunger and provide safer food and medicines. Others feel that the new technology has not been sufficiently tested.
What is unfair, however, are the demonizing techniques used by unelected, self-styled activists to discredit anyone who dares to question the GMO gospel according to Greenpeace.
The Internet is already laden with enough junk science about cancer being caused by everything from aspartame to underarm deodorant.
The Frankenfears fueled by Greenpeace and other self-appointed protectors of the environment is giving rise to a hysteria that threatens to catapult us back to pagan-inspired nature worship. We question modern medical science, yet heap praise on "naturopaths" hawking the nonsensical benefits of apple-cider vinegar.
Stewart noted in his column that "the attempts to muzzle a scientist are at least as instructive as the concerns his research raised."
Dramatic language, you see, is de rigueur when it comes to attacking infidels who dare to question the received dogma of the politically correct. Not content with the potent image of muzzled scientists, Stewart also mentioned "threatening" phone calls made by Peter Lachmann, which "intimated" that Lancet editor Richard Horton could lose his job.
The "muzzled scientist" is biochemist Arpad Pusztai, who worked for 36 years at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a noble hero to the Greenpeace crowd because he claimed that biologically modified food stunts the growth of rats.
Pusztai was wrong, of course, but no matter. At least he helped the cause.
Our man Arpad was certainly not a rat's best friend. The diet he fed these unfortunate rodents was protein-deficient. According to the Lancet, "there is convincing evidence that short-term protein stress and starvation impair the growth rate, development, hepatic metabolism and immune function of rats."
All Pusztai managed to prove was that rats hate potatoes. He couldn't make them eat enough raw taters, so they were malnourished to begin with. Even John Gatehouse, who worked with Pusztai, has questioned the conclusions of the study.
But never mind the facts. Greenpeace-promoted Pusztai can do no wrong. Not so Lachmann, who was understandably upset that a prestigious publication like the Lancet would publish such shoddy science.
Lachmann wrote: "The attempt of single-interest groups, supported by the tabloid press and now by others who should know better, to declare this whole (genetically modified) technology as dangerous and immoral is sad for the U.K., but is also absurd."
Stewart describes him as a senior Royal Society member who "consults widely for the biotech industry."
He neglects to mention that Lachmann is a professor of immunology at Cambridge University and president of the United Kingdom's Academy of Medical Science.
Stewart notes that Pusztai's results were confirmed by "an Aberdeen University scientist."
Aberdeen again. I had no idea that the place was such a hotbed of international rat research.
The Royal Society's internal review of the Pusztai data noted that the study is " flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and that no conclusions should be drawn from it."
Pusztai's research has now been "peer reviewed" by six specialist advisers: a nutritionist, a human pathologist, a veterinary pathologist, an agricultural geneticist, a plant molecular biologist and a statistician.
Never mind these people. They are not as valid as the daring duo from Aberdeen.
Greenpeace has been whipping up hysteria aided and abetted by sycophantic members of the media who have fallen over one another to swallow the Greenpeace twaddle.
According to the Social Issues Research Centre at Oxford, many of the articles praising Pusztai were written by activists masquerading as detached journalists. Among the more notorious were Andy Rowell of Greenpeace and George Monbiot, author of An Activist's Guide to Exploiting the Media.
The anti-science witch hunt in the British Isles is getting worse.
Professor Roger Gosden, acclaimed for the first successful ovary graft, has moved here from Britain because he just couldn't take it any more.
Gosden developed the technique to graft frozen ovaries to help young women who are about to lose their fertility through serious diseases like cancer.
He said, "With all the fuss over GM food and so on, it is difficult to be a scientist in Britain. One does not feel proud to be a scientist any longer."
The Chief Medical Officer of England, Liam Donaldson, wrote in the Lancet that although "there is no current evidence to suggest that the GM technologies used to produce food are inherently harmful … nothing can be absolutely certain in a field of rapid scientific and technological development."
Indeed, nothing is absolutely certain. However, scientists in favour of genetic engineering must prove everything while Greenpeace merely has to raise accusations.
Environmental activists cannot prove that genetic engineering is harmful, but will do all they can to stop it. Their worries about the environment are second only to their concern about corporations turning a profit.
Joerg Haider had it all wrong. If he wanted to rehabilitate his image, he didn't have to wait around for wedding invitations from Tasher Hasidim in Boisbriand.
He should have started railing against genetically modified food and he would instantly have been hailed as a hero.
Even if he's not from Aberdeen.
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