Conflicts of Interest in
Suppressing Dissent in Science (LANCET)
31 July 2001
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Suppressing Dissent in Science (Bowling)..
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 23:21:45 -0600
From: Roy Beavers <email@example.com>
Organization: EMF-L List
It is hard to overstate the importance of this document.......!!!
For years I have been literally shouting this same message about the control of thought in the EMF science community.
AND ... I certainly agree that it is NOT just a problem in the EMF science..... (As you will read below in the LANCET......)
It is happening everywhere in the scientific circles of our corrupted Western "corporate dominated" Democracies....... I do NOT believe the political system will do anything about it...... The corruption of the political process is also part of the problem.......
The "press" simply MUST do a better job of informing the public about this.........!!!! Our system is totally dependent upon the "fourth estate" in situations like this........!!!!
(Perhaps ... science, itself, could change the system -- if enough scientists would simply refuse to go along.......)........guru........(Please give this broad circulation to your scientific colleagues ... and to the government.)
----- Original Message -----
From: Croft Woodruff
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2001 11:27 AMSubject: Suppressing Dissent in Science With GM Foods [Lancet Volume 357, Number 9257 03 March 2001] Suppressing Dissent in Science With GM Foods
The Institute of Science in Society Londonia House,
24 Old Gloucester Street London, WC1N 3A1 UK
Tel: 44 0207242 9831
Lancet Volume 357, Number 9257 03 March 2001
Science is in crisis. The full extent of the crisis surfaced when trade union leaders warned that the integrity of British science is being threatened by "a dash for commercial cash" in a report published in the Times Higher Education Supplement (Sept 8, 2000), the main newsprint for University academics.
The Institute for Professional and Managers in Specialists carried out survey of scientists working in government or in recently privatized laboratories earlier this year.
Onethird of the respondents had been asked to change their research findings to suit the customer's preferred outcome, while 10% had pressure put on them to bend their results to help secure contracts.
In Britain's handful of top research universities, dependence on private funding is acute, often amounting to 8090% of the total research budget. The four unions representing scientists and technical staff have launched a charter, which says that research must be guaranteed "by peer review, open publication and by autonomy over a significant proportion of its resources". Commercialization smashes all three tenets.
The only way to be sure that science retains its integrity is to enshrine open and clearcut whistle blowing, the unions claim.
Science has seldom lived up to its ideal as an open, disinterested inquiry into nature, as any scientist who has ever tried to publish genuinely new ideas or findings in the 'peerreviewed' scientific journals will know too well. Nobel Laureate Hans Krebs' discovery of the metabolic cycle that would eventually bear his name was rejected from the journal Nature.
Albert SzentGyorgyi, another Nobel prizewinning biochemist, never got funded for work on the relevance of quantum physics to living organisms, which is crucial for understanding living organisms and why cell phones may be harmful, for example.
In the course of liberating itself from the Church, the scientific establishment has inherited many of the trappings of fundamentalist religion. There can be but One True Science, and everything else tends to be treated as nonsense or heresy.
Within the past 50 years, the suppression of dissent has plumbed new depths, as the scientific establishment is increasingly getting into bed with big business. At first, it was mostly physics and chemistry, now it is preeminently biology. And as corporations are growing bigger and more powerful, so the suppression of scientific dissent is becoming more sophisticated, insidious and extensive.
As the scientific and the political mainstream have both come to identify with corporate aims, so their established power structures are brought to bear on squashing scientific dissent and engineering consensus. Witness the seamless way in which the corporations, the state and the scientific establishment are coordinating their efforts to force feed the world with GM crops, known to be unsafe and unsustainable, and to offer no proven benefits whatsoever either to farmers or consumers .
Fallouts from the GM Debate
The GM debate had been going on in the UK and the rest of Europe for at least several years before the press went to town on Dr. Arpad Pusztai's revelation that the GM potatoes tested in his laboratory might not be safe . As a result, Pusztai lost his job and was gagged. Probiotech scientists and Fellows of the UK Royal Society vented their collective ire and condemnation and Pusztai's integrity as a scientist was called into question.
The Royal Society simultaneously set up its own hasty review of Pusztai's experimental results , without giving Pusztai the opportunity to assemble the complete set of data, published a report declaring Pusztai's findings flawed, and warned that no conclusions should be drawn. The report also reiterated the importance of peerreview before the results are released to the public. The Editor of The Lancet referred to the Royal Society's review as "a gesture of breathtaking impertinence to the Rowett Institute scientists".
Double Standards In The Science Establishment
However, the Royal Society has never reviewed nor condemned the truly damnable unpublished and published findings on GM crops and products offered by the industry, and accepted as evidence of safety by our regulatory authorities. Nor has it condemned the suppression of scientific evidence by the industry. There are clearly double standards being applied. Not only that, outright propaganda is legitimate, so long as it is probiotech, and publiclyfunded scientific research institutions are openly engaging in this exercise.
Industry's Manipulation And Suppression Of Scientific Evidence
Monsanto's machinations in gaining approval of rBGH is notorious . An 80page report entitled, Use of Bovine Somatotropin (BST) in the States: Its Potential Effects, was published by the Clinton White House in 1994, which concluded, "There is no evidence that BST poses a threat to humans or animals."
Later that year, British scientists revealed that their attempts to publish evidence that rBGH may increase the cow's susceptibility to mastitis (infection of the udder) were blocked by Monsanto for three years.
The scientists showed that Monsanto's submission to the FDA was based on selected data that covered up what the experiments had actually revealed more pus in rBGHtreated cows.
Over 800 farmers using rBGH reported health problems with the cows.
Side effects included death, serious mastitis, hoof and leg ailments and spontaneous abortions.
Monsanto subsequently offered Health Canada scientists substantial research funding during the rBGH approval process and the Health Canada scientists also complained of being subjected to suppression and harassment during the rBGH approval process.
Two respected investigative journalists were fired from their jobs over a TV documentary on Monsanto's rBGH, alleging significant scientific findings had been suppressed.
For example, insulingrowth factor (IGF1) was found to increase 10fold in rBGH milk. Increased IGF1 is linked to breast, colon and prostate cancers in humans.
Monsanto had also withheld from the FDA data from studies on rats which showed that feeding rBGH elicited antibodies to the hormone and the males developed cysts on the thymus and abnormalities in the prostate gland.
Despite all that, rBGH milk is still being sold unlabelled in the US today.
Communicating Science: Sound Science's Double Standards
The treatment of Dr. Pusztai constitutes one of the most notorious examples of double standards. Pusztai attended the OECD conference in Edinburgh on the Scientific and Health Aspects of Genetically Modified Foods , where a series of speakers questioned his integrity, despite the fact that at least part of the research in question had, by then, been published in The Lancet.
In contrast, Professor Zhangliang Chen, VicePresident of BeijingUniversity, met with almost universal approval after telling the conference that rats fed on GM foods in China showed no adverse effects, entirely on the basis of unpublished research and without any detail on design or methodology. Pusztai recalled people were even coming up to tell him that Prof Chen had shown when you do the experiments right, you get the right results!
The Royal Society Guidance On How To Suppress Unpalatable Truths
The Royal Society then drew up a "Guidance for editors", which is reproduced with strong approval in a subsequent House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology Report on Science and Society .
It looks suspiciously like the 'code of practice' that the House of CommonsScience and Technology Select Committee had in mind to counteract the press 'hysteria' over the Pusztai affair. It begins by quoting the Press Complaints Commission Code that, "newspapers and periodicals must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material", and warns, "Editors must be able to demonstrate that the necessary steps havebeen taken".
"Journalists", the Guidelines states, "must make every effort to establish the credibility of scientists and their work". The Royal Society will publish a directory that provides a list of scientists. Before interviewing any scientist, the journalist will be expected to have consulted the officially nominated expert in the field, who will be able to say whether the scientist in question holds correct views.
"Newspapers may suppose that they have produced 'balanced' reports byquoting opposing views". Not so, according to the Royal Society, if "the opposing view is held by only a quixotic minority." Journalists are told to identify, wherever possible, a majority view, and that is the one they should present. The majority view may turn out to be wrong, but such instances, we are told, are the exceptions rather than the rule.
But the mainstream majority has all too often mistaken!
It has been mistaken over nuclear power, climate change, and the link between BSE and new variant CJD, to name but a few glaring examples. And it is thanks to journalists reporting minority views that pressure is brought to bear on the mainstream majority to change their stance. By then, unfortunately, much damage has already been done. It would have been far worse if the minority views had never got a hearing at all.
The Royal Society acknowledges that it is important for scientists to communicate via the media, but is concerned that some scientists may be seeking publicity to further their careers or to make exaggerated claims.
This is blatantly absurd and insulting to scientists like Pusztai and others who lost their research grants and jobs for expounding unpopular views and unpalatable findings. To counter this, the Royal Society wants the media to contact "scientific advisers" (again, presumably supplied by the Royal Society) who could establish the authenticity of any story.
On the matter of "uncertainty", "journalists should be wary of regarding uncertainty about a scientific issue as an indication that all views, no matter how unorthodox, have the same legitimacy." The Royal ociety insists, once again, that it is peer review that confers legitimacy on scientific claims.
The Royal Society has broken new ground in attempting to exercise control over the press.
It has been established practice for decades, if not centuries for new scientific results to be presented at conferences before they have been subjected to peer review and published. Peer review is not and never has been a precondition for research being brought to the attention of the public.
More to the point, where there is the possibility of danger to health or to the environment, it can be totally counter to public interest to wait for peer review. It took Pusztai nearly two years to get part of the work published.And in the final hours, a fellow of the Royal Society, Peter Lachmann tried to prevent the paper appearing in print . Holding back on a scientific claim until everything is settled is one thing; not alerting the public soon enough to a possible danger is another.
The House Of Lord Decree That No Question Should Be Asked About Safety
For good measure, the House of Lords Select Committee adds several comments, the first aimed at discouraging sensational headlines such as those that might damage the image of GM crops; the second, incredible as it may seem, attempts to purge the word, "safe" from the vocabulary of the media. "The very question "Is it safe?" is itself irresponsible, since it conveys the misleading impression that absolute safety is achievable."
This frontal attack on the English language is actually a veiled attempt to undermine the precautionary principle in its most important form, which can truly safeguard human health and the environment. It entails a reversal of the present onus of proof. In other words, instead of requiring civil society to prove something harmful before it can be withdrawn or banned, perpetrators should have to prove something safe beyond reasonable doubt before it can be approved, especially where the product is of no proven benefit to society.
Scientists Too, Must Be Reined In
That is by no means the end of the story. Recently, a detailed Code of Practice on Science and Health Communication was launched jointly by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and the Royal Institution, to address concerns about the ways in which some issues are covered in the media, unjustified 'scare stories' as well as those "which offer false hopes to the seriously ill". It also claims to be in response to the call for such a code by the Select Committee on Science and Technology.
The code is aimed not only at journalists but also at scientists. A draft of the code recommended journalists to consult only with 'expert contacts', a secret directory of which will be provided only to "registered journalists with bona fide credentials". It discouraged scientists from disclosing unpublished results even at professional scientific meetings, thus breaking with a timehonored tradition of open communication among scientists.
Although the general impression the Code attempts to convey is that wishing to prevent both 'scare stories' and 'hype', it is no different in substance to the original Royal Society Guidelines to editors. It is intended to promote the mainstream, establishment view and at the same time to suppress minority, dissenting voices.
The Code demands that known affiliations or interests of the investigators should be clearly stated; and that this applies not only to "researchers who are attached to, or funded by, companies and trade organisations but also to those who have known sympathies with particular consumer pressure groups or charitable organisations".
The two cases are, however, clearly not equivalent. For researchers funded by companies, there is everything to be gained in terms of both scientific repute and monetary reward in promulgating the corporate agenda.
For scientists who go against the grain, there is everything to be lost, including job and career.
The Code goes on to state, "It should be recognized, however, that a particular affiliation does not rule out the potential for objectivity. All scientists are paid by somebody". This is a flagrant attempt to blur the distinction between publicly funded scientists whose allegiance is first and foremost to civil society, and those in the pay of unaccountable corporations dominated by the profit motive.
The Corporate Takeover Of Science Is The Greatest Threat To Survival
Britain might be mistaken for a Third World country, says a newspaper headline at the beginning of year 2001: chaos on the rail network, protests over fuel price increases in the midst of the worst storms and floods in decades, and a vCJD epidemic that may claim up to tens of thousands of lives. Mad cow disease, or BSE, is now spreading to the rest of Europe, raising new fears that vCJD may follow in its wake.
The BSE report, published at the end of October 2000, blames persistent government denials over the link between vCJD and BSE beef based on the 'best scientific advice' given by the Southwood Committee in 1989, which concluded "it was most unlikely that BSE will have any implications for human health". The 'best scientific advice' is saying the same about GM crops.
The scientific establishment has failed, again and again, to acknowledge that science is by its nature incomplete and uncertain and to insist on the precautionary approach.
If the CJD fiasco can teach us anything, it is that science is too important to be left to the politicians or to a scientific establishment in bed with big business. Our academic institutions have given up all pretense of being citadels of higher learning and disinterested enquiry into the nature of things; least of all, of being guardians of the public good. The corporate take over of science is the greatest threat to our survival and the survival of our planet.
It must be resisted and fought at every level.
We must reject the imposition of any Code of Practice designed to suppress open scientific debate and discussion. Instead, concerted effort must be made by independent journalists and scientists to promote genuine, critical public understanding of science, so that the widest crosssection of civil society may be empowered to participate in making decisions on science and technology. Only then, can we hope to restore democratic control of science to scientists themselves and to civil society at large.
Engineered Corn Turns Up in Seed Companies Detect 'StarLink' Protein
GeneSpliced Wheat Stirs Global Fears Buyers Spurn Grain Before It's Planted
Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops: Why We Need A Global Moratorium
1. See World Scientists Open Letter to All Governments on GMOs for a review of the evidence. Institute of Science and Society website www.isis.org
2. "Pusztai publishes amidst fresh storms of controversy" ISIS News#3 December, 1999
3. Review of data on possible toxicity of GM potatoes, The Royal Society, June 1999.
4. "Health risks of genetically modified foods", Editorial, The Lancet 353, May 29, 1999.
5. See Fox, M. (1999). Beyond Evolution, Chapter 5, The Lyons Press, New York.
6. See "OECD agenda: "there is no evidence that GMfoods are harmful", Arpad Pusztai,
7. ISIS News#4, March 2000.
11. "False reports and the smears and men" Jonathan Mathews, GMFREE, vol 1, no. 4, pp. 814 Also viewable at: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/false.htm
12. Complete transcript of the public meeting at:
14. "Trangenic pollen harms monarch larvae" Losey,J.E. et al, Nature 399, 214, 1999. http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/biospin.htm
15. "Sweet as you are" Jeremy Bartlett, Splice 5,
16. Also viewable at:http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/articlebartlett.htm
17. See "Trust me, I'm an expert" and "How to engineer society to accept
science as usual", MaeWan Ho, ISIS News#4, March, 2000
18. See "Concern for science", Tom Wakeford, The Times Higher March 24, 2000.
19. "Bad company, reporting the business of science", Jonathan Mathew,
Norfolk 20. Genetic Information Network (ngin),
20. "New independent media centre aims to give scientists a voice" The
Financial Times, Jan 30, 2001