Friday, 10 April 2009


Separating fact from fiction on the environment

Opinon: Traditional media can still play a major role in highlighting risks to the Earth or human health, writes Frank McDonald.

The Irish Times, 8 April 2009:

Also: Comment from GM-free Ireland

8 April 2009.



Opinion: Traditional media can still play a major role in highlighting risks to the Earth or human health, writes Frank McDonald.

The Irish Times, 8 April 2009:

IT IS quite remarkable how few early warnings about risks to human health or the environment over the years turned out to be unfounded. Whether the dangers came from X-rays, DDT, tobacco smoking, asbestos, lead in petrol or chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs), early warners were proved right, often after decades of denial by vested interests.

Similar struggles are still being waged over electromagnetic radiation from powerlines, dioxins from waste incineration or desirability of producing food using genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

And, as in the past, scientists who stick their necks out on these issues have been disowned, harassed and even vilified.

Árpád Pusztai, a Hungarian protein scientist whose 1998 study of GM potatoes showed that they had negative effects on the immune system of rats, was dismissed by the Rowlett Research Institute in Aberdeen, his research team disbanded and its laboratory work destroyed because of the controversial nature of their findings.

But Pusztai had his supporters. Despite objections from the Royal Society and Sir Robert May, the British government's chief scientific adviser, his findings were published by the Lancet, and 20 scientists from eight countries signed a petition. In 2005, Pusztai won a "Whistleblower Award" from the German Federation of Scientists.

His story was told by one of his supporters, Dr Christian Vélot, at a major conference in Lisbon last week - The media and the environment: between complexity and urgency - organised by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the University of Lisbon's institute of social sciences.

Comment from GM-free Ireland:

Nice words, but the The Irish Times is unlikely to provide any semblance of balanced coverage of the GM food and farming controversy so long as the newspaper's owner - the Irish Times Trust - continues to be chaired by Prof. David McConnell, the hardline pro-GM biotech industry lobbyist who is also the Co-ordinator and Co-Vice Chairman of EAGLES - European Action on Global Life Sciences (_ ( a task force of the European Federation of Biotechnology whose members include Monsanto Europe, the Association of German Biotech Companies, the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (USA), etc.

The Irish Times' demonstrable bias on GM issues is a flagrant breach of the Revenue Commission requirement that registered charities must avoid promoting commercial vested interests.

When I was a London Assembly member, I organised a conference on GM food, with Dr.Pusztai as the main speaker. He is a brilliant scientist and a real gentleman. He started his work under a Stalinist regime in Eastern Europe, but found that the establishment over here were much worse.

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