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Monday January 06, 2014 15:29 by Nick Cullen
Ireland's future agricultural interests are clearly best served by promoting and producing clean organic GM free food for which there is an increasing market and higher margins. So why are key figures pushing a pro GM agenda?
From a farming perspective, it is the conflict of interest of Martina Newell Mcloughlin with regard to the growing of GM crops that is most striking.
The high level Bord Bia report ‘Pathways for Growth’, states that ''Ireland has an enviable agricultural situation that almost every other country would kill for'''... ''in the race to produce exactly the type of food that a growing number of consumers are demanding''......''natural and we can prove it''....which is required by the modern consumer who...''rebels against “multinationals” who they think are adulterating the food we eat'' the report adds that '' Given its lack of scale and cost disadvantages, Ireland is not going to win the commodity game. It must have a high margin export strategy''.
However promoting GM crops globally is a strategic imperative for the US government who do so with the aid of not only their public Representatives and diplomats but also their military intelligence services (Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 13 2013)
Aside from chairing the S.F.I. committee responsible for awarding our billion euro budget Newell Mc Loughlin promotes GM crops globally on behalf of the US Dept of Agriculture, the US State Department, and the controversial ILSI (see Guardian newspaper 9 January 2003 '' W.H.O. infiltrated by food lobby''). McLoughlin was appointed to an advisory board of a US based group (pipra) which sought to overcome the legal barriers that slow development of biotech crops. Newell-McLoughlin helped design EU safety assessments of genetically modified foods as part of an ILSI Task force whose members included representatives of all the big GM seed/agrochemical firms:
She is also in charge of a US based programme whose International collaborators include Teagasc Oak Park, U.C.D., N.U.I.M. and N.U.I.G. The programme has the overarching theme of the development and utilization of plants for the production of biofuels, industrial non-food products biopharmaceuticals, and agricultural products (food, feed & fiber), ..... to prepare the research, educational, business, regulatory, and policy leaders of the future.''
She co-authored a report on technical developments in Biotech for Forfas and Teagasc (where she was employed as a consultant) She also was one of those who gave a presentation at a forum of Ireland’s Advisory Science Council, the outcomes and decisions from which'' will inform the activities and advice of the Advisory Science Council''.
Bill Harris (formerly of the US Science Foundation) says that Science Foundation Ireland is a tool to implement policy. As SFI has funded the genetic modification of agricultural crops in Ireland, new less restrictive methods of G.M., and works to highlight the environmental ''benefits'' of GM crops, this begs the question, which nations policy is being implemented?
The further work of SFI personnel through ''Innovation Advisory Partners'' in Skolkova appears to have implications for GM cropping in the Russian Federation
(See http://www.slideshare.net/igorod/igor-goryanin-biomedical-technologies-at-skolkovo ).
The Skolkovo project appears to have strategic significance for the U.S.
The establishment of an Irish arm of a US body (US Science Foundation / SFI) before venturing further into Europe is mirrored in the case of our economic modelling and analysis system for food and agriculture (FAPRI Ireland/FAPRI US), whose staff have been involved in a report for our Department of Agriculture which showed GM crops to be more lucrative than the alternatives by using a methodology which precludes any other outcome.(''The Economic Evaluation of a GM Free Country: an Irish Case Study'', confidential report commissioned by the DAF). FAPRI went on to be given the contract for economic modelling at EU level.
McLoughlin has told us that it was the major universities who were at the epicentre of the rapid growth of the biotech industry in the U.S. and the possibility must be considered that Ireland long marketed as the US’s gateway into Europe is being used as such in the case of the US's ambitions for GM crops and that the university system is being used as the Trojan horse to deliver this expansion.
The development of GM crops here is a clear repetition of the mistakes identified in the analysis of the banking sectors demise.
The Keynote speaker at the 'Regulation in the Age of Crisis' conference, held in UCD in 2010, identified a '07 statement from Ben Bernanke as being one of those which sums up the complacent attitude which landed us in the mess we are in. Bernanke stated that the economic benefits that flow from financial innovation should be always kept in view when addressing the risks. Bizarrely Bernanke's words are echoed in a later presentation dealing with the regulation of genetically modified food, in the suggestion that ''a more appropriate regulatory framework..., would focus on comparatively assessing the...health risks versus the benefits of a product, rather than overly focusing on (often hypothetical) risks''. The authors of this work were Ewen Mullins (developer and promoter of Teagasc’s genetically modified potato, and member of the GMO sub-committee of the Food Safety Association of Ireland and the GMO Advisory Committee of the Environmental Protection Agency, and responsible for GM risk assessment activities at Teagasc) and Shane Morris the former Canadian National Biotechnology Operations Coordinator.
Their opinions echo McLoughlin’s work at ILSI which tells us that '‘During risk analysis, the risks are to be weighed against other issues, such as the benefits''
. What better example could there be than that of McLoughlin's of the banking failings outlined in the OECD document :
( http://search.oecd.org/officialdocuments/displaydocumentpdf/?cote=GOV/PGC/ETH%282009%292/REV1&docLanguage=En )
which looked issues such as conflict of interest, (our interests re. GM crops are incompatible with those of the US) and regulatory capture? (She helped to write the rules for the EU regulators). The OECD document states that these problems were not confined to the banking industry specifically pointing out conflicts of interest within the scientific industry.
. If the risks of GM food are acceptable, then this is something that McLoughlin should be telling the people who fund her work in the US government and Monsanto (Sacramento bee June 6 to 10 2004)
Monsanto exists in its present form due to an exercise in risk avoidance where the parent company Pharmacia absorbed valuable assets; leaving “new Monsanto” to sink or swim with the GM project (David Barboza, 20,12,1999 New York Times)+(Can You Afford GM Agriculture? E. Ann Clark). Monsanto have said re. GM food "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." The FDA in turn avoids liability by relying on the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic act section 402(a) (1). The risk is described by Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute: “Genetically engineered foods are among the riskiest of all possible insurance exposures that we have today”.
A problem with SFI can be traced back through the ''Technology Foresight fund' to the Forfas ''Technology Foresight Reports''. The Forfas report (health and life sciences) contains the lie upon which the U.S. regulatory system is still based. The report states; ''the Human Genome Project,... will ... reveal the basic structure of at least 100,000 new genes which specify 100,000 new biological chemicals’’. The significance of these miscalculations is dealt with by Denise Caruso in the New York Times July 1 2007, Stephen Leahy in ''Macleans'' magazine September 30, 2002 and in an interview with Dr. Thierry Vrain on the gmwatch site.
That SFI continued to fund research into the agricultural applications of GM long after the Human Genome Research Institute published findings that disproves the scientific principles on which the presumption of GM crop safety is based is a scandal.
We are being told, as are those in the Russian Federation that we can be world leaders in these areas. But in the case of agricultural applications, there can only be one leader namely the multi-national companies involved in GM who have effectively bought out the global seed industry and therefore control the vital raw materials.
Monsanto's ability to identify and market the most productive seed for any given location is explained by their head Hugh Grant. “It is the mother and father of all dating agencies: we can analyse every single seed we harvest, do a health check, guess what its grandchildren will be like, send it anywhere in the world,”
Monsanto has designated their Woodland facility as its global headquarters for vegetable seed research. ''The region was chosen because of its mild climate, its location in the heart of California vegetable production and proximity to the University of California-Davis,'' said Marlin Edwards, global vegetable technology lead. “It’s just a great place to operate,” he said.
It's not hard to see the attraction of U.C. Davis to Monsanto.
A referendum (prop. 37) in California aimed at forcing the food industry to label it's GM foods as such saw support slip from more than a 90% majority to being narrowly defeated following a 40 million dollar campaign by the 'NO' side and help from professors at UC Davis. Alexis Baden-Mayer of Organic Consumers Association in ''Unmasking the No on Prop 37 Lies and Dirty Tricks'' (October 31, 2012) writes;
'' Lies about Costs to Farmers and Processors:
TRICK: UC Davis Professors of agricultural economics released a report that showed Proposition 37 would increase costs for California farmers and food processors by $1.2 billion.
TRUTH:The No campaign paid the authors of this study, Julian Alston and Daniel Sumner, at least $30,000. The study assumes that farmers and food producers will respond to Proposition 37 by switching from genetically engineering to organic to avoid the labeling. The authors don't devote much attention to the possibility that producers will respond to the labeling mandate by simply relabeling.''
''Scientists as Sock Puppets:
TRICK: An anti-Prop 37 op-ed is authored by Kent J. Bradford, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, and the director of the Seed Biotechnology Center.
TRUTH: The words Bradford uses to describe Prop 37 are taken verbatim from the No on 37 website. The Daily Democrat and The Reporter (Vacaville) published Monsanto's talking points disguised as legitimate opinion from a university professor of plant biology.''
''Scientists with Hidden Strings:
TRICK: Martina Newell-McLoughlin, D.Sc., is the director of the International Biotechnology Program and an Adjunct Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis. When she acts as a proponent for genetic engineering, as she did recently on the Dr. Oz Show, she presents herself as an independent academic scientist.
TRUTH: Martina Newell-McLoughlin's work is funded by the same pesticide company that backs the No on 37 campaign, but the strings that attach her to Monsanto are rarely reported along with her pro-GMO views.''
The Institute for responsible technology referred to the above interview;
''Dr. Oz revealed that the pro-GMO scientists invited to his show were unwilling to share the stage with Jeffrey. They would only appear after Jeffrey and Dr. Burnhoft finished their interview and walked off. The reason for this demand became immediately obvious when Martina Newell-McLoughlin spoke to Dr. Oz. So much of she said was demonstrably false or misleading. You are welcome to "Spot the Lies" and write them in as comments below the video on Dr. Oz's site'
Newell-McLoughlin is described as being the "driving force" of biotechnology education at the University of California, Davis where she developed ''the groundbreaking trans-disciplinary Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology,''
Davis was also a base to Professor Burke with whom she co-authored a book on the regulation and future direction of agricultural biotechnology. Burke joined Teagasc where he became Head of the National Crops and Plant Biotechnology Centre at Oak Park where he set up a new biotechnology facility and plant biotechnology research programme which developed Teagasc's GM potato. Burke also sat on various panels promoting and guiding the control of biotechnology in Ireland.
McLoughlin and Burke appear to be joined by many others in a country where government policy appears to dictate that boundless enthusiasm for biotechnology in all its manifestations is an essential prerequisite for career advancement. The current head of Teagasc, Gerry Boyle is an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri (MU) where FAPRI is based (known as FAPRI MU). The university has a partnership arrangement with Monsanto leading to its alternative title of 'The University of Monsanto'.
Professor Mike ''I can't see any dangers whatsoever in genetically
modified foods'' Gibney of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has worked with the ILSI and is on its science advisory board. Also within the university system is the aforementioned Shane Morris, (former Canadian National Biotechnology Operations Coordinator) whose work Miriam Lord described in the Irish Times as being Fine Gael’s GM strategy (13 October 2007):.Morris tells us that it was under political pressure and direct suggestion from Fine Gael that the Inter-Departmental Group on Modern Biotechnology had been established which recommended that; '' the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Development should, in cooperation with other bodies, devise a program for the managed development of GM crops that would provide for a phased, monitored progression to full commercial cultivation''
Michael Carey, chairman of Bord Bia is a shareholder and board member of Valeo foods. Professor Burke is chair of the research and development strategy board set up to guide the future development of ‘Agrii’. Agrii is the UKs leading agronomy company, offering ‘independent and innovative’ advice to arable, fruit and vegetable growers. Agrii and Valeo are part of the one group ‘Origin enterprises’. The big six global GM chemical companies have joined the Agrii group as research and development partners.
Would no Irish scientist dare challenge the illusion of GM Crop safety which is a swaying house of cards kept upright by the relentless huffing and puffing by characters who can maintain a serious expression while delivering utter 'scientific' gibberish in a manner which would allow them to walk onto the set of any Monty python sketch without audition. A more credible view of the safety issue is presented in a review of GM animal feed studies, by Donna and Arvanitoyannis, and published in “Critical Reviews in food Science and Nutrition Feb 2009, which concludes that;
“the results of most of the rather few studies conducted with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal and reproductive effects and may alter haematological, biochemical and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains unknown. The above results indicate that many GM foods have some common toxic effects. Therefore, further studies should be conducted in order to elucidate the mechanism dominating this action”.
In contemplating this perilous path for the future it appears that Dean Swifts 'modest proposal' may have been accepted by our systems of governance, shamelessly dysfunctional when viewed from below but working perfectly for those who actively manage it from above.