Scientist leading GM crop test defends links to US biotech giant Monsanto
Quote:The scientist in charge of a taxpayer-funded trial that may determine whether genetically modified crops will be grown in the UK has been attacked for his close links to the US biotech giant Monsanto.
Professor Jonathan Jones, head of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre, the UK's leading plant research centre, has shrugged off the controversy, insisting he has never tried to hide his business relationship with Monsanto or the GM industry.
But as the scientist overseeing the first UK trials of a GM potato, Jones has found himself at the centre of a storm after anti-GM campaigners used social networking sites such as Twitter to highlight the close links between a company he founded, Mendel Biotechnology, and Monsanto.
Mendel's website states: "Mendel's most important customer and collaborator for our technology business is Monsanto, the leading agricultural biotechnology company in the world."
Jonathan Matthews, spokesman for GM Watch, which campaigns against the technology, said: "The frontman for the latest GM push in the UK is being portrayed as a dedicated public servant doing science in the public interest, but it now appears he not only has vested interests in the success of GM but even commercial connections to Monsanto."
Helen Wallace, of GeneWatch UK, a scientific campaign group critical of Monsanto, said the US company's "PR strategy relies on seemingly independent scientists making empty promises about the future benefits of GM crops".
Jones made no reference to the links in an article he wrote recently for the BBC website that attacked anti-GM campaigners as "fussy eaters". He wrote: "Some fear the domination of the seed industry by multinationals, particularly Monsanto. We need smart, sustainable, sensitive science and technology, and we need to use every tool in our toolbox, including GM."
In a statement to the Observer, Jones insisted: "It is not true to suggest I have attempted to hide my role as co-founder and science advisory board member of Mendel Biotechnology, which has contracts with Monsanto, Bayer and BP. The information that I am co-founder… of Mendel has been in the public domain on the Mendel website for at least 10 years." He also defended the GM trial in Norfolk, aimed at creating varieties of potato that would not need to be sprayed with fungicides to protect them from blight.
Critics claim the trial, the results of which are likely to be used to "sell" GM technology to the British public, is a waste of money because blight-resistant potatoes have already been produced through other techniques. "Given the availability of viable alternatives, the GM potato trial increasingly looks like nothing more than a PR stunt," Matthews said.
But Jones said it would be for the government to decide whether the trial had been a success. "At the end of the trial we will be able to tell you whether the blight resistance genes we are trialling work," Jones said. "I will not be (and do not want to be) in a position to dictate whether or not that affects UK policy towards the technology."
Friends of Jones said that it was unfair to attack him for not stating his links to the GM industry. "If he doesn't restate any links every time he writes a piece, that doesn't mean he hasn't highlighted them," said one, pointing to the close links between the organic food lobby and anti-GM campaigners. "It is frustrating for scientists that journalists only look at scientists' links and don't look at other vested interests."
Experts said there was little alternative for those researching GM crops to work with the likes of Monsanto because the Plant Breeding Institute, the public body that used to research new crops, was privatised under the Thatcher government, meaning scientists working in the field had to develop relationships with the private sector.
It has been claimed that the first GM potatoes could be available to commercial UK growers within five years, if the Norfolk trial is successful.
Quote:UK Testing GM Potatoes That Offer No Benefit to Farmers or Eaters How can this happen? Big money talks. When Monsanto-related pseudo-research has ties with politics, Monsanto gets what it wants.
by Heidi Stevenson
18 July 2010
Fanning the flames of fear with the specter of the Irish Potato Famine, the UK is testing genetically modified (GM) potatoes. They have been engineered to resist a fungal blight, which may seem worthy—until you learn that the UK already has blight-resistant potatoes developed through cross-breeding. The GM trial is being done in spite of staunch resistance by the British public.
The trial has been made to look like a pure scientific investigation. The question, though, is why the UK government is sponsoring a trial for a potato that isn't needed. It's being pitched as a panacea that would prevent the need for pesticides on potato crops. But that makes no sense, since it isn't a problem in the UK—at least, not for the blight.
The person heading the project is Jonathan Jones, who runs the Sainsbury Laboratory. During none of his promotion of the project have his ties with Monsanto been noted. The Guardian reports that Jonathan Matthews, the spokesman for GM Watch, pointed out:
The frontman for the latest GM push in the UK is being portrayed as a dedicated public servant doing science in the public interest, but it now appears he not only has vested interests in the success of GM but even commercial connections to Monsanto.
It turns out that Jones not only has links to Monsanto, he has direct financial interests. He founded Mendel Biotechnology, whose most significant customer—and also collaborator—is Monsanto. Yet, he didn't provide that information in a recent tirade against opponents of GM, which he wrote for BBC. He went so far as to call them, "fussy eaters". When confronted with his lack of transparency, he stated to the Observer that he hadn't tried to hide his connections.
Why This Particular GM Trial?
There is nothing to be gained by the UK in this trial of blight-resistant GM potatoes. So what's the purpose of this trial?
The answer is given by Helen Wallace, of GeneWatch UK, who stated:
PR strategy [of Monsanto] relies on seemingly independent scientists making empty promises about the future benefits of GM crops.
So, it seems likely that this trial of genetically modified potatoes—which offer no benefit to either the growers or eaters of potatoes in the UK—is being done for other reasons.
But why? Why would the UK government waste taxpayer money on a trial of GM potatoes that are unlikely to benefit either farmers or consumers in the UK? How did it happen?
Wealth and Politics
There's nothing like being able to buy your way into politics, and then using your political position to manipulate the goals and finances of the nation.
Baron David John Sainsbury was born into wealth, but it wasn't enough to buy him the grades he needed to become a scientist, and it didn't give him his title. So, he joined the family firm, J. Sainsbury's in the personnel department. He became Chairman and retired in 1998, during the rise of the Labour Party. On entering politics, he put his 23% stake in Sainsbury's into a pseudo-blind trust, with the ability to replace the trustee at will.
Shortly after Labour's victory in 2007, Sainsbury was made a baron and given an honorary science degree. He donated and loaned huge sums to the Labour Party, including a £2 million loan that was questioned in the "Cash for Peerages" scandal in 2006. He gave £2 million to Labour in 2007, thus cancelling the need to pay back the £2 million loan. He became the Science and Innovation Minister for Britain under Labour and was made a Baron.
Altogether, it's believed that Sainsbury gave more than £16 million to Labour.
Conflicts of Interest
The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSB) was, of course, founded by the Sainsbury family. From its inception, research has been in "plant-microbe interactions". Though the website claims that their purpose is "curiosity driven research", most of what they do is involved with genetic modification.
TSB's funding comes from:
* The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, which was founded by Baron Sainsbury.
* The John Innes Foundation, on whose land TSB is sited.
* The University of East Anglia.
* The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which is funded by the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Corporate Watch states, "Lord Sainsbury is a shining example of all that is wrong with mixing business and government." Significant conflicts of interest involving Sainsbury include, but are far from limited to, the following:
* He helped found Sainsbury Laboratories and his Gatsby Foundation is its primary source of funding. The BBSRC gave it £800,000 per year while he was responsible for that agency as a government minister.
* As Science Minister, Sainsbury went to the US in 1999 to research biotechnology. In his entourage were members of the GM industry lobby group, BioIndustry Association. His own company, Diatech, is an associate member of the lobby group.
* Diatech registered a patent for a genetic sequence of the tobacco mosaic virus, which is used in genetically modified plants. It was developed by the Sainsbury Lab.
* He held significant financial interests in Diatech Ltd, a plant genetics company, and Innotech Investments Ltd, involved in both plant genetics and GMO, while he was Science Minister. Innotech held a substantial stake in Paradigm Genetics, which was involved in a GM venture with Monsanto.
* Sainsbury met with three Monsanto officials the eve of an important seminar with environmentalists, clearly showing his disdain for anti-GM activists.
This is only a small part of Sainsbury's conflicts of interest while "serving" the UK government.
Follow the Money
So, why are potatoes genetically modified for resistance to blight, which is not a concern in the UK, being grown in a laboratory experiment? Just follow the money.
In the UK, the vast majority of citizens are strongly against GM food, either grown on farms or for sale in stores. A prior attempt to grow frankentaters was stopped by a group of activists who destroyed the growing plants.
To give a sense of UK attitudes towards GM crops, a group of 28 activists, including Lord Peter Melchett, destroyed a GM corn crop in 2000. The case was thrown out when it reached the court.
Nonetheless, another GM potato trial is now taking place, with security cameras and controlled access. The public's views are utterly ignored. Neither the public nor the farmers can possibly benefit from it. The operation of the trial was set up under Sainsbury, who stands to profit from the results.
At the same time, the public's resistance is being worn down. Twisted arguments are used to justify the test. The man at the head of the trial, Jonathan Jones, is portrayed as an independent scientist. Yet, he too stands to benefit from its success. He has promoted the trial by saying:
UK potato growers spray crops 10-15 times a year and in 2007 Europe ran out of chemicals to control blight, it was such a wet year. If our research is successful, this will cut chemicals and carbon dioxide generated by the use of tractors.
It sounds good, but on examination, the utter lack of logic is clear. The trial is taking place and being paid for by the UK, which does not have a problem with potato blight. Other countries do—but frankly, it begs credulity to suggest that GM potatoes are being developed in the UK for altruistic reasons.
No, the only explanation for this GM potatoes trial is the lucre that Jones, Sainsbury, and certainly others, stand to take in from their sale. The only other explanation—and perhaps a co-explanation—is that a spoiled rich boy who either didn't have the ability or the fortitude to follow his dream of being a scientist has perverted the course of British politics in an attempt to fill that hole left by the vanished dream.
It's more about patenting the life form so that Monsanto can corner the market on this heavily consumed starch. Rather than the stated claim of blight resistance and reducing cancer (rat tests)
So, in short, the UK does not have a problem with potato blight. But other countries do have issues with it, so what do you think the tests will reveal .. no blight found in the potatoes - approved for market. The rest of the world will be lobbied to accept the results of this rigged science of this tax funded 'independent' study and open up yet another market to Monsanto for patented GM food. Of course the potatoes will spread in nature and the Monsanto food police will be checking around for copyright violations and sue farmers left and right like they did with soy, cotton and corn crops.
and what the fuck is this .. Greenpeace producing a video that actually has environment significance. I suppose if they ignored such a large issue entirely it would look bad on them.
Check out The World According to Monsanto, if you haven't already for a more in-depth look at the world's biggest GMO producer / pusher.
Search out Monsanto on the forum and tracker too for way more dirt on them.
Seems that they used the UK government before to test out some GMO potatoes a few months ago. This time for an antibiotic producing potato by BASF.
Quote:Brussels Approves Inedible GMO Potato For the first time in a dozen years, the European Commission has given the o.k. to a genetically modified crop—an inedible potato from BASF for industrial uses
March 3, 2010, 8:59AM EST
By Leigh Phillips
The European Commission on Tuesday (2 March) approved the first genetically modified crop for cultivation in Europe in 12 years, provoking the ire of environmental groups and some member states and cheers from the biotech industry.
The EU executive gave the green light to the growing of the Amflora potato, produced by Germany's BASF (BASFY), the largest chemical company in the world, alongside the entry onto the European market of three GM maize products.
Austria denounced the decision, declaring that Vienna would immediately ban the potato, while Italy's agriculture minister warned that the commission had overstepped its authority.
"We will not allow the questioning of member states' sovereignty on this matter," he said.
In the past, a majority of EU member states has opposed the authorisation of the potato, which is not intended for human consumption. Rather, its starch would be used in industrial processes. Critics say however that the crop could cross with potatoes that humans do eat.
EU health commissioner John Dalli announced the decision saying the EU executive was committed to a "science-based union authorisation system."
"It is clear to me that there were no new scientific issues that merited further assessments...All scientific issues, particularly those concerning safety for human and animal health and the environment have been fully addressed."
He added that the delays to approval were inhibiting innovation: "My guiding principle in the context of innovative technologies will be that of responsible innovation. It is innovation that will give our citizens the best guarantee of safety and the strongest impetus for economic growth."
Green groups however are worried that the BASF potato contains a gene that confers resistance to some antibiotics.
While the European Food Safety Authority has given the potato a passing grade on a number of occasions, the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency have warned of the "critical importance" of the antibiotics affected by the Amflora potato, Greenpeace said in reaction to the commission green light.
"Releasing BASF's GM potato into the environment could raise bacterial resistance to life-saving medicines, including drugs used for the treatment of tuberculosis," said the group's agriculture campaigner, Marco Contiero.
"In six years, [EU Commission President] Barroso has been unable to bury scientific evidence questioning the safety of this GM potato," he continued, but now "health commissioner Dalli has agreed to this cold-blooded approval that flies in the face of science, public opinion and EU law."
In 2001, the EU adopted legislation phasing out products containing antibiotic resistance genes.
BASF for its part was happy with the decision. "After waiting for more than 13 years, we are delighted that the European Commission has approved Amflora," said Stefan Marcinowski, a member of the BASF board.
The company said commercial cultivation of the potato could begin as soon as this year. The potato is intended for industrial processes rather than human consumption. Its starch gives paper a higher gloss, and makes concrete and adhesives stay wet for a longer period of time, reducing the consumption of energy and raw materials.
Europabio, the European biotech industry trade association, said: "Today's approvals represent a step in the right direction and a return to science-based decision making. This is essential if European farmers are to be given the freedom to choose whether or not to cultivate innovative GM crops."
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These only include foods on the market. I haven't been able to dig up anything on modification of genes that may occur based on consuming GM foods. There is also no mention of GM cows because they are not approved for direct consumption but there are GM cows that produce massive amounts of growth hormones and another GM breed that produces a large amount of protein for cheese and milk manufacturing.