domingo, octubre 07, 2012
domingo, junio 22, 2008
Ban GMOs Now
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho warns that further indulgence in GMOs will severely damage our chances of surviving the food crisis and global warming; organic agriculture and localised food systems are the way forward
Invited lecture at conference on TRADITIONAL SEEDS OUR NATIONAL TREASURE AND HERITAGE -Traditional and Organic Agriculture instead of GMO, 17 May 2008, Bewelder, Warsaw, Poland
In 1994, I met some of the most remarkable leaders in the Third World: Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher (Institute of Sustainable Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Martin Khor (Third World Network, Penang, Malaysia), and Vandana Shiva (Navdanya, New Delhi, India), who persuaded me to look into genetically modified organisms (GMOs), especially GM crops, which they rightly saw as a special threat to small family farmers. The biotech industry was promising miracle GM crops that would boost yield to feed the world, improve nutrition, and clean up and protect the environment. Monsanto’s Flavr Savr tomato, the first GM crop, had just been commercialised, though it turned out to be a complete flop, and was withdrawn several years later..
The biotech industry’s aggressive campaign of disinformation and manipulation of science did nothing to obscure the signs that the dream would soon turn into nightmare; and I said so in my book first published in 1997/1998  Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, the Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business, which became an international bestseller, translated into many languages, and recently reprinted with an extended introduction to coincide with its translation into Indonesian. Everything predicted in that book has happened. It also explained why the science behind GM is obsolete; a story elaborated further in Living with the Fluid Genome  published in 2003.
Genetic modification based on an obsolete theory and hence ineffective and dangerous
Genetic engineering of plants and animals began in the mid 1970s in the belief that the genome (the totality of all the genetic material of a species) is constant and static, and that the characteristics of organism are simply hardwired in their genome. But geneticists soon discovered that the genome is remarkably dynamic and ‘fluid’, and constantly in conversation with the environment. This determines which genes are turned on, when, where, by how much and for how long. Moreover, the genetic material itself could also be marked or changed according to experience, and the influence passed on to the next generation.
The best thing about the human genome project is to finally explode the myth of genetic determinism, revealing the layers of molecular complexity that transmit, interpret and rewrite the genetic texts  (Life Beyond the Central Dogma series, SiS 24). These processes are precisely orchestrated and finely tuned by the organism as a whole, in a highly coordinated molecular ‘dance of life’ that’s necessary for survival.
In contrast, genetic engineering in the laboratory is crude, imprecise and invasive. The rogue genes inserted into a genome to make a GMO could land anywhere; typically in a rearranged or defective form, scrambling and mutating the host genome, and have the tendency to move or rearrange further once inserted, basically because they do not know the dance of life. That’s ultimately why genetic modification doesn’t work and is also dangerous.
Independent science against GM
In 1999, I co-founded the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) with my husband and long-time collaborator Peter Saunders, Professor of Mathematics at King’s College, London, to work for science, society and sustainability and to reclaim science for the public good. We are fortunate to have the support of wonderful fellow scientists, especially Prof. Joe Cummins, who joined ISIS from the start and continues to play the leading role in monitoring GM science. (Joe Cummins has been honoured with the ISIS Distinguished Fellow Award 2008.)
In 2003, dozens of scientists from around the world joined us in ISIS to form the Independent Science Panel, and produced a report, The Case for A GM-Free Sustainable World , documenting all the problems and hazards of GM crops as well as the successes and benefits of non-GM sustainable agriculture. The report was republished within a year, translated into many languages and widely circulated. We presented the report to the European Parliament in 2004  (Keep GM Out of Europe, SiS 24), with the help of Jill Evans MEP.
In 2007, we updated the ISP report with a dossier containing more than 160 fully referenced articles from the archives of ISIS’ magazine Science in Society, spelling out the scandals of serious hazards ignored, scientific fraud, the regulatory sham and violation of farmers’ rights  (GM Science Exposed: Hazards Ignored, Fraud, Regulatory Sham, Violation of Farmers Rights). Duped farmers in India are driven to suicide in hundreds of thousands. GM science is a crime against humanity.
In a scientific review paper  (GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham), we documented how national and international regulators and advisory bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority have been ignoring the precautionary principle (which is accepted by the European Commission), abusing science, sidestepping the law, and helping to promote GM technology in the face of evidence piling up against the safety of GM food and feed.
We presented our dossier and review paper to the European Parliament in June 2007, once again to press for a GM-Free Europe and a GM-free world, thanks to the sponsorship of Polish MEP Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski and his office. Our panel consisted of key scientists from six countries including Poland, and friends of independent scientists, including MEPs Dr. Caroline Lucas and Jill Evans.
The case for a GM-free world has grown much stronger since 2004, not only because so much more evidence has stacked up against GM crops; but especially because accelerating global warming, the depletion of water and fossil fuels, and the current food crisis make it that much more urgent to shift comprehensively to sustainable food and energy systems as proposed in ISIS/TWN’s energy report Which Energy? . There is neither the time nor resources to waste on GM.
We’d had 30 years of GMOs and more than enough damage done, as detailed in the ISP Report , in our GM Science dossier , and more recent evidence has been piling up.
Thirty years of GMOs are more than enough
· No increase in yields; on the contrary GM soya decreased yields by up to 20 percent compared with non-GM soya , and up to 100 percent failures of Bt cotton have been recorded in India . New studies confirmed these findings. Research from the University of Kansas found a 10 percent yield drag for Roundup Ready soya  that required extra manganese applied to the soil to make up the yield deficit. A team of scientists from the USDA and the University of Georgia found growing GM cotton in the US could result in a drop in income by up to 40 percent [10, 11] (Transgenic Cotton Offers No Advantage, SiS 38)
· No reduction in pesticides use; on the contrary, USDA data showed that GM crops increase pesticide use by 50 million pounds from 1996 to 2003 in the United States . New data paint an even grimmer picture: the use of glyphosate on major crops went up more than 15-fold between 1994 and 2005, along with increases in other herbicides  in order to cope with rising glyphosate resistant superweeds . Roundup tolerant canola volunteers are top among the worries of Canadian farmers [13, 14] (Study Based on Farmers’ Experience Exposes Risks of GM Crops, SiS 38)
· Roundup herbicide is lethal to frogs and toxic to human placental and embryonic cells . Roundup is used in more than 80 percent of all GM crops planted in the world
· GM crops harm wildlife, as revealed by UK’s farm scale evaluations , and more recently in a study led by Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois in the United Stated, which found that wastes from Bt corn impaired the growth of a common aquatic insect [15, 16] (Bt Crops Threaten Aquatic Ecosystems, SiS 36)
· Bt resistance pests and Roundup tolerant superweeds render the two major GM crop traits practically useless . A recent review concluded that  “evolved glyphosate-resistant weeds are a major risk for the continued success of glyphosate and transgenic glyphosate-resistant crops.” And the evolution of Bt resistant bollworms worldwide have now been confirmed and documented in more than a dozen fields in Mississippi and Arkansas between 2003 and 2006 
· Vast areas of forests, pampas and cerrados lost to GM soya in Latin America, 15 m hectares in Argentina alone ; and this has worsened considerably with the demand for biofuels (see later)
· Epidemic of suicides in the cotton belt of India involving 100 000 farmers between 1993-2003, and a further 16 000 farmers a year have died since Bt cotton was introduced 
· Transgene contamination unavoidable, scientists find GM pollination of non-GM crops and wild relatives 21 kilometres away 
· GM food and feed linked to deaths and sicknesses both in the fields in India and in lab tests around the world (more below)
GM food and feed inherently hazardous to health 
Here are some highlights from our GM Science dossier  on the hazards of GM food and feed. Dr. Irina Ermakova of the Russian Academy of Sciences showed how GM soya made female rats give birth to severely stunted and abnormal litters, with more than half dying in three weeks, and those remaining are sterile. Hundreds of villagers and cotton handlers in India suffer allergy-like symptoms, thousands of sheep died after grazing on the Bt cotton residues, goat and cows as well were reported in 2007 and 2008  (Mass Protests against GM Crops in India , SiS 38). A harmless bean protein transferred to pea when tested on mice cause severe inflammation in the lungs and provoked generalised food sensitivities. Dozens of villagers in the south of the Philippines fell ill when neighbouring GM maize fields came into flower in 2003, five have died and some remain ill to this day. A dozen cows died having eaten GM maize in Hesse Germany and more in the herd had to be slaughtered from mysterious illnesses. Arpad Pusztai and his colleagues in the UK found GM potatoes with snowdrop lectin damaged every organ system of young rats; the stomach lining grew twice as thick as controls. Chickens fed GM maize Chardon LL were twice as likely to die as controls. And finally, GM maize Mon 863 was claimed to be as safe as non-GM maize by the company, and accepted as such by European Food Safety Authority. But independent scientists of CriiGen in France re-analysed the data and found signs of liver and kidney toxicity.
Different animals and human beings exposed to a variety of transgenic crops with different traits either fall ill or die. The evidence compels us to consider the possibility that the hazards of GMOs may be inherent to the technology, as I suggested more than ten years ago .
Litter from female rat fed GM soya (bottom) compared with control
(from Dr. Erina Ermakova)
martes, enero 08, 2008
Mae Wan Ho Letter to Nature Biotechnology
You are still being unfair to Ermakova, especially in allowing the panel of critics in your original Feature2 - all well known for their writings and public appearances if not in declared financial interests to be strongly pro-GM - to have the last word.3
You asked for suggestions regarding the format you might use for Features of this kind. The real issue, however, is not the format but the journal’s policy on reviewing. When there is a debate or a controversy about an issue, reviewers must apply the same standards to papers on both sides, and that Chassy et al2,3 did not do. They explicitly wrote that Ermakova’s work should be judged by a more rigorous standard because it contradicts earlier work that showed no adverse effects from GM food. Yet the crucial earlier work4 that they repeatedly cited was indeed, not subjected to same rigorous standard they are demanding for Ermakova’s study; far from it. The same applies to other earlier research purportedly demonstrating that GM food is safe.
The specific GM food in question, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soya (RR soya, event 40-3-2), has been commercially grown since 1996 if not before. But contrary to the assertions of proponents such as Chassy et al,2,3 its market approval - as indeed the market approval of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - has been contested right from the start.5 At issue was a reductionist regulatory regime that allowed companies to present results of the most undiscerning tests to bolster the claim that the GMO is ‘substantially equivalent’ to, and hence as safe as, its conventional counterpart(s).
Feeding trials, typically conducted by the company seeking market approval,6 tended to focus on agronomic performance, not on safety, and were not of sufficient duration to assess any but the most acute, short-term effects.
domingo, diciembre 09, 2007
What is Nature Biotechnology good for?
NOTE: Superb piece on the Ermakova-Nature Biotechnology scandal.
EXTRACT: Its owner, Nature Publishing Group no doubt finds that publishing a magazine that does double duty as a science journal and as a trade journal is a highly profitable combination, but equally it is never going to be one that encourages disinterested science
What is Nature Biotechnology good for?
The case of Irina Ermakova
The Bioscience Resource Project, Dec 4 2007
Quite likely it surprised many regular readers of Nature Biotechnology that for the September (2007) issue their journal had invented a new article format specifically in order to describe, and then extensively criticise, the work of a researcher that most of them had never heard of before (1). That surprise will only increase if they read the translation, featured on our website, of a Nov 1st article (The excommunication of a heretic) in the Swiss Newspaper WOZ. Readers who thought this new format was simply a curious, if rather aggressive, literary innovation, can now see that this was a story with a disturbing history. Even more interesting however than the ethical shenanigans behind the publication of the interview with Dr Ermakova, is a point not raised by the Swiss newspaper article.
In science, opinions may differ, but it is not usual to attempt to embarrass opponents with overt public criticism. The existence (or imminent prospect) of reproducible data that will settle the issue is usually sufficient to ensure that most disputes never reach the printed page. So why has this dispute followed a different course?
Roundup Ready Soybeans, all of which are derived from a single transgene insertion event (40-3-2), have been on the market for approximately twelve years. They have been grown on millions of hectares and passed regulatory safety assessments in many countries. If a researcher makes a seemingly anomalous finding that RR Soy harms rats then surely all that should be necessary is for their critics to reach for the multitude of studies already in existence for a handy refutation? For RR Soy however, such a body of incontestable data does not exist. It is this remarkable data gap that seems to be behind the Nature Biotechnology interview with Dr Ermakova and quite probably it is for this reason that her unpublished study so alarms the biotech industry.
In the case of RR Soy, there is a single broadly comparable (i.e. multi-generational) study that examines similar endpoints in rodents (in this case mice) fed RR Soy and that also supports the contention that mice are unaffected by RR soy (Brake and Evenson 2004). The problem however is that this is only a single small study and, although published in a peer reviewed journal, it suffers from as many flaws as does the study carried out by Dr Ermakova. For those interested, we can recommend applying the Nature Biotechnology criticisms of Dr Ermakovas’ study, to the Brake and Evenson study.
For example, Dr Ermakova is criticised in the interview for having bought her seeds from ADM Netherlands, even though she says she tested to confirm that they contained the RR transgene. Brake and Evenson in contrast report that they relied on an unnamed seed dealer taking them to a single field of RR soy and a single non-transgenic field, where they obtained soybeans from unspecified cultivars. Brake and Evenson report no attempt to verify the dealers' identification of the soybeans as transgenic or otherwise (Brake and Evenson 2004). It is therefore hard to understand why Brake and Evenson's should be considered a superior method for obtaining samples.
There is one further published study, not mentioned by the Nature Biotechnology critics, that is comparable (in the sense of being multigenerational) to those of Ermakova and Brake and Evenson. It reports histological studies on the offspring of mice fed RR soy (Malatesta et al 2002a). These authors reported ultrastructural alterations to hepatocytes of the offspring of pregnant mice fed RR Soy but no other differences (Malatesta et al 2002a). A further paper from the same laboratory reported biochemical (but not visible) alterations to pancreatic cells of mice fed RR soy for up to 8 months after weaning (Malatesta 2002b). These two papers arguably offer some support for Dr Ermakova's work in that effects of RR soy were observed, although the effects seen were not the same. For example, no effects on offspring body weight or mortality were noted.
Perhaps the most important general point about all these multigenerational studies is that none of them used near-isogenic soybeans grown side-by-side, which is a prerequisite for a properly controlled test of the question that we all want answered: whether the 40-3-2 transformation event can be responsible for altered toxicological or nutritional properties of soybeans.
The critics' challenges to Dr Ermakova's work are mostly reasonable (2). They rest on demonstrating flaws in her methodology and also on the assertion that her work is further contradicted by four mammalian feeding studies of RR soy, even though, unlike Dr Ermakova’s, all of these are single generation studies (Zhu et al 2004; Teshima et al 2000; Cromwell et al 2002; Hammond et al 1996). As in their comparison with the Brake and Evenson work however, the criticisms create the impression that these papers do not themselves suffer from the flaws noted in Dr Ermakova's work. This is not the case however and from a toxicological perspective, the limitations of all these studies (summarised in Tables A and B) are strikingly similar to those pointed out by Dr Ermakova's critics.
Table A details for each study the preparation and selection of soybeans for consumption (e.g. whether RR and control soybeans were grown under the same conditions, whether isogenic lines were used, whether the presence/absence of the transgene was ascertained, etc.) while Table B details key attributes of the feeding studies themselves (such as how many animals were used, what percent soy was included in the diet etc). Looking at Tables A and B it is plain to see that, as a result of their collective limitations (which include short study durations, small numbers of animals and lack of replication), while no adverse effects were reported (though see footnote 3), their individual and collective limitations are highly significant.
These inadequacies, which are fundamental to any discussion about whether Dr Ermakova's data are in conflict with the published literature, appear to have been missed entirely by the Nature Biotechnology critics. It is not the only mistake they make however. They seem to have been unaware of the Malatesta papers, they cite Teshima et al and Zhu et al in stating that 'Previous reports in the literature have shown no effects of RR soy on birth weights or pup mortality' (p983) yet neither paper studied birth weights, pregnant rats or pregnant mice. In fact, Teshima et al started their study on rats and mice that were both seven weeks old and Zhu et al started theirs on 28 day old rats. None of these are trivial errors and they make the question - raised by Roland Fischer of WOZ - of why Nature Biotechnology failed to use truly expert referees, a highly pertinent one.
Ultimately, more important than any misrepresentation of the evidence by these four critics, is a question that is central for regulators who are asked to approve and consumers who are offered RR Soy: does the existence of these seven flawed studies tell us anything useful about the safety or otherwise of RR soy? This question is also an interesting one purely from a scientific perspective because current scientific understandings (especially in regulatory science) are very frequently constructed from small numbers of highly imperfect studies. The answer would seem to depend on at least three parameters, all of which are mutually dependent. Firstly, the precise nature of those flaws, because some, such as failing to positively determine the presence of the transgene in the treatments, and equally its absence from the controls, ought to invalidate any experiment regardless of the subsequent quality of data collected (4). The second significant parameter is whether the flaws in each paper are the same or overlapping. Flaws in one paper, and usually these will be data gaps, can sometimes be made up for by the results of another. Lastly, an experiment may be perfectly useful, but nevertheless not support the conclusions which the authors draw. Failure to use isogenic lines and/or to grow them side-by-side means that, whatever the title of a paper may imply, any effect seen in the treatment group cannot be attributed specifically to presence of the RR transgene. Using these criteria, any conclusions about the safety of RR soy based on these data must be extremely limited and highly provisional, and consequently deeply unsatisfactory.
All of which raises an issue for Nature Biotechnology as a scientific journal. The safety or otherwise of RR Soy is a matter of great public health significance. New research suggesting that it might not be safe, especially when the prior research is inconclusive at best, should be a matter of significant concern. Yet Nature Biotechnology saw Dr Ermakovas' work only as an industry threat and publicised her work seemingly only in order to dismiss it. There is no difference at all between what Nature Biotechnology has done to Irina Ermakova and what Fox news did to Marion Nestle when they hired Steven Milloy, then at the Cato Institute, to review her book Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. And if there is no difference in behaviour between Fox News and Nature Biotechnology, what is the value of Nature Biotechnology as a journal of science?
It seems to us that this interview is part of a pattern and that Nature Biotechnology has for some time been unclear where the line that traditionally separates trade magazines from science journals lies (5). Its owner, Nature Publishing Group no doubt finds that publishing a magazine that does double duty as a science journal and as a trade journal is a highly profitable combination, but equally it is never going to be one that encourages disinterested science (6). Consider what Nature Biotechnology could have done to address the question of transgenic soya biosafety: it could have invited Dr Ermakova to submit her work formally and, whether it was accepted or rejected, it could have written an editorial calling for appropriately controlled high quality independent research to fill the data gaps. It could have pointed out that, if anything the existing data provides hints that there is a need for such experiments. The fact that Nature Biotechnology did none of these should be of deep concern to all its readers.
1) Marshall, A. (2007) Nature Biotechnology 25: 981-98
2) Not all of their points are fair though. For example, Dr Ermakova is criticised for not double-blinding her experiments, yet none of the studies discussed in Nature Biotechnology or in this commentary were double-blinded.
3) Interestingly, though Zhu et al make no mention of it, for all time points tested and for both sexes their results show an almost perfect correlation of decreasing white blood cell counts as RR soya replaces conventional soya in the diet fed to their rats.
4) Although the fact that in some papers the developers of RR Soy were also the experimenters might be considered to mitigate this defect (Table A). Equally however, their collaborators might have tested for their own satisfaction.
5) Compare the treatment of non-target effects of Bt in the review by Romeis et al (2006) in Nature Biotechnology 24: 63-71 with that of Lovei and Arpaia (2005) in Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 114: 1-14 or Hilbeck and Schmidt (2006) in Biopesticides International 2: 1-50
6) It is also interesting to note that, unlike most journals, NPG journals have no association with any scientific societies and no independent editorial board.
Brake, D. G. and Evenson, D. (2004) Food Chem. Toxicol. 42 29-36
Cromwell, G.L. et al (2002) J. Anim. Sci. 80: 708-715
Hammond, B.G. et al (1996 J. Nutr. 126: 717-727
Malatesta,M. et al (2002a) Cell Struct. Funct. 27: 173-180
Malatesta, M. et al (2002b) J. Anat. 201: 409-446
Teshima, R. et al (2000) J. Food Hyg. Soc. Japan 41: 188-193
Zhu, Y. et al (2004) Arch. Anim. Nutr. 58: 295-310
lunes, octubre 01, 2007
Nature Biotech's "professional malpractice"
From GM Free Cymru
Editor, Nature Biotechnology
New York office
28th September 2007
Ref: Nature Biotechnology 25, 981 - 987 (2007) GM soybeans and health safety-a controversy reexamined
Further to our letter of 17th September, we understand that you have now offered Dr Ermakova space for the publication of a letter in the pages of Nature Biotechnology in which she can outline her grievances against the methods employed by you and your journal, and address some of the issues raised by the self-appointed "reviewers" who set out to destroy her reputation. In our view this is an entirely unsatisfactory recompense for the deliberate and cynical damage which you have done to Dr Ermakova's good name, since you will reserve the right to edit whatever she may say, and since a letter will have virtually no status academically and will have no interest as far as the media are concerned. An effective way of "closing down" the issue........
This miserable business has distinct echoes of the sinister happenings of 2002, when your sister publication "Nature" published a peer-reviewed and important paper by Quist and Chapela on GM maize contamination, and then "retracted" it following sustained and intense pressure from the GM industry and from parts of the GM research community. That was an unprecedented and thoroughly distasteful episode which did immense damage to Nature's good name (1). Afterwards Philip Campbell, the Editor, sought to justify his action on the grounds of a "technical oversight" by the journal which led to the "mistaken" publication of a "flawed" paper (2).
Well, in the current case we have a whole series of "technical oversights" which have led "Nature Biotechnology" to publish an article which was written by the Editor of the journal and which would not have been out of place in the cheapest tabloid newspaper. It should never have seen the light of day. To remind you:
1. Was it through a technical oversight that you allowed four of the best-known apologists for the GM industry to have "free space" in the pages of "Nature Biotechnology" for a premeditated attack on Dr Ermakova, whose findings they happened to find distasteful?
2. Was it through a technical oversight that you connived with them to induce Dr Ermakova to outline her findings in response to your questions, and then to publish their not-attributed responses? (I remind you that their comments were published as "joint comments" for which no particular person took responsibility, which were presumably not subject to a review process of any sort, and which were quite probably ghost written in any case.)
3. Was it through a technical oversight that Dr Ermakova was never told the names of the four men who were out to destroy her reputation, and was never shown their comments prior to publication?
4. Was it through a technical oversight that some of Dr Ermakova's key references were removed from the article and replaced by 20 new references brought in the bolster the case made by the four GM industry spokesmen?
5. Was it through a technical oversight that in the correspondence we have seen, Dr Ermakova was clearly given the impression that this was to be "her" article, and was then sent a proof (the only proof she saw) which had her name on it as author?
6. Was it through a technical oversight that Dr Ermakova was advised by your colleague Dr Kathy Aschheim that she would not accept a paper for consideration and peer review on the grounds that it would be more appropriate for another journal, while at the same time you were pressing on with the publication of a "feature" devoted to the destruction of her scientific reputation?
We have outlined the full story of this catalogue of lies and deceit here: http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/rottweiler.htm
Possibly the most serious instance of professional malpractice we have ever seen relates to the "dummy proof" which you sent to Dr Ermakova on 20th August 2007. We gather that you have explained this away as down to a "mistake" in your office. We cannot accept that, and none of the scientists with whom we have had contact has ever encountered such a blatant example of malpractice before.
If the above instances of "technical oversight" were indeed down to administrative errors within your office, that does not say much for the efficiency and competence of you and your staff. If they were down to a deliberate and predetermined strategy to destroy the academic reputation of Dr Ermakova (and that is indeed our interpretation) that is without doubt a resigning matter.
We therefore ask you immediately to retract the paper which you published. If a retraction was deemed by your publishers to be appropriate in the case of the Quist and Chapela article in 2002, it is infinitely more appropriate in this case. We look forward to your confirmation that this will be done.
We also ask that in your retraction statement you give a full apology to Dr Ermakova for the manner in which she has been lied to and misled, and for the damage done to her reputation. We think you should specifically apologize for the dummy proof.
You should also give the aggrieved scientist space in a future edition of the journal (and not just in a letter) to defend herself and to answer the ill-considered and inaccurate points made by Giddings, Chassy, McHugh[en] and Moses. The article should be published as a feature, with Dr Ermakova as the named author, with the following words at the head of the article: "Through an oversight the author was not given the names of her critics or shown the comments on her work before they were published. Nature Biotechnology has therefore offered her this opportunity to respond to them."
We imagine that Dr Ermakova and the rest of the "GM community" would be happy to see a further commitment to publish letters that you might subsequently receive (from scientists who may wish either to support or criticise her work) in the normal way.
We know that Dr Ermakova been advised to seek legal redress for the damage done to her reputation through the publication of your article, and no doubt matters will become clearer on that account in due course.
Dr Brian John
GM Free Cymru
It's been drawn to our attention that the Quist/Chapela article in "Nature" in 2002 was never formally "retracted" or "withdrawn" by the Editor, although he did use the word "retract" himself in later correspondence. At the time Philip Campbell said, in response to the brutal lobbying of the GM apologists: "In light of these discussions and the diverse advice received, Nature has concluded that the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper." The journal's response, involving the publication of two critiques of the original article, was widely interpreted by the media as having been feeble, confused, and highly influenced by political and commercial considerations rather than scientific ones.
viernes, septiembre 21, 2007
Science and Scientist Abused
ISIS Letter to Nature Biotechnology
Please circulate widely and write your own letter to Nature Biotechnology
To: Andrew Marshall, Editor, Nature Biotechnology
Richard Charkin, Chief Executive, MacMillan Ltd
Annette Thomas, Managing Director of Nature Publications, London
Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief, Nature Publications, London
c/o firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
We are writing on behalf of the Institute of Science in Society* to express our deep concern over your recently published article about Dr Irina Ermakova and her work (“GM soybeans and health safety - a controversy re-examined”, Marshall, A. Nature Biotechnology 25, 981 – 987, 2007, http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v25/n9/abs/nbt0907-981.html ). The article is grossly unfair to Dr Ermakova and certainly not in the best traditions of scientific publishing.
We have been told Dr Ermakova was given to understand that she would be the co-author of an article describing her work. What actually appeared was one written by you, containing comments by a panel composed entirely of people linked to the biotech industry. These comments were never shown to Dr. Ermakova before the article was published, and she was given no right of reply.
There are journals that routinely publish criticisms of papers along with the papers themselves. This can be an effective way of drawing attention to important but possibly controversial work, while not allowing it to go unchallenged. These journals generally adhere to some important rules. The target paper is written by the researcher(s); not by a journalist.
Comments from other scientists are published along with the paper, followed by a general reply by the author(s). Some of the commentators may be known to be critical of or even hostile to the author’s point of view, but the panel will include others who are not. That is quite different from what you have done.
You were wrong not to make it clear to Dr Ermakova how you proposed to use her contribution, even to the extent of not showing her the proofs of what would actually appear in your journal. Such practice is more appropriate to a tabloid newspaper than to a serious scientific journal, and a public acknowledgement of the oversight from you would be in order. You were also wrong not to allow Dr. Ermakova to reply to the criticisms. She must now be given the appropriate platform in your journal to respond fully to the criticisms of her work, without further comment either from you or from your panel of committed biotech supporters.
Dr, Mae-Wan Ho
Professor Peter T. Saunders,
Institute of Science in Society
PO Box 51885
London NW2 9DH
miércoles, septiembre 19, 2007
SUBJECT: The sordid side of Nature
17 September 2007
Dr. Andrew Marshall Editor
345 Park Avenue South
New York NY 10010-1707
Dear Dr. Marshall,
I am writing about the publication 'GM soybeans and health safety - a controversy reexamined' Marshall, A. Nature Biotechnology 25, 981 - 987 (2007) http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v25/n9/abs/nbt0907-981.html I was recently informed about disturbing revelations concerning the manner in which the authorship of the article was attributed and how one contributor, Dr.Irina Ermakova , was solicited to participate on an article as author then, without her knowledge or permission, had her contribution added to the final article authored by you, Dr. Marshall
My understanding of the sequence of events as lined out by Dr. Brian John is as follows: On 20 August 2007 the Senior Production Editor of Nature Biotechnology sent Dr. Ermakova a "dummy proof" in PDF format, with the title "GM Soybeans and health safety - a controversy reexamined" and with Irina V Ermakova listed beneath the title as author. Eight of the original 12 references had been deleted. In the introductory paragraph (presumably written by the Editor) were the words
"Nature Biotechnology approached Dr. Ermakova to ask for a detailed account of her work in her own words. Her answers are presented below together with comments solicited from a group of researchers working in the field." The comments from the group of researchers were NOT included in the dummy proof, which was referred to as a "publication proof."
On 12th September, without any further reference to DrErmakova , the article was published on the Nature Biotechnology web site. It was now a totally different article, with Andrew Marshall listed as author, with 20 new references (all chosen to bolster the case made by the critics), with photos and biographical notes on Val Giddings, Bruce Chassy, Alan McHughen and Vivian Moses, and with lengthy critiques by the group inserted after every one of the answers provided by Dr. Ermakova to the questions provided to her by you, Dr. Marshall.
On the day of publication, Dr. Ermakova asked for a copy of the published article, and it was sent to her in PDF format . This was the first time she had seen it in its final form, and the first time she had seen the comments from the "group of four." She was surprised to see that her name had been replaced by that of Andrew Marshall as author. On the same day the Editor sent an Email to Dr. Ermakova to explain the rationale behind the change of attribution at the head of the article
You wrote: ......."it was decided to present the article from a neutral point of view of an editor, with both your viewpoints and those of the other authors presented together."
I wish to point out first, Dr. Ermakova had no opportunity to respond to the criticism of your panel of 'researchers working in the field'. The lack of an opportunity to face those hostile comments lacks any sense of fundamental justice. Next, your researchers working in the field had not published animal feeding studies and their fields, like yours, were primarily public relations on behalf of the biotechnology industry. Furthermore, you have no 'neutral point of view' and should have sought
a neutral person to put together an article should Dr. Ermakova have agreed to the takeover and change of authorship of the article authored by her as agreed in a publication proof!
Plagiarism (from the Latin ,/ plagiare/ "to kidnap") is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism ). Dr. Marshall, you seem to have plagiarized Dr. Ermakova's article by incorporating it into your article without first obtaining permission from Dr. Ermakova. You may be surprised to know that editors have no right to scoop up others articles and incorporate them into their own or others articles , without first obtaining agreement from the authors. If Nature is planning to promote plagiarism by editors as a general practice they should inform the scientific public that they have moved in that direction.
In conclusion, the world requires that you should provide Dr. Ermakova a publication platform to reply to the critics of her work. Furthermore, I wish to urge you to take time off, go back to the Microbiology laboratory and re-educate yourself in the practice of full and truthfull scientific reporting.
Sincerely, Professor Emeritus Joe Cummins. University of Western Ontario
martes, septiembre 18, 2007
Nature Biotechnology facilitates premeditated GM Rottweiler attack
How a well-known scientific journal "set up" an honest scientist through a conspiracy of lies and deception
GM Free Cymru (GM Free Wales), 17 September 2007.
But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; And I did not know that they had devised plots against me...
When Russian scientist Irina Ermakova revealed the results of her studies of rats which had been fed on a diet of GM soy in 2005, there was immediate and widespread press coverage, since her findings indicated that the fertility of animals fed on the GM material was compromised, and that the survival rates of offspring were dramatically reduced (1). Her results were seized upon by anti-GM campaigners and consumer groups, since they seemed to confirm other published research showing damage to the vital organs of animals fed on GM plants of various kinds (2). The GM industry and the regulatory bodies in Europe and elsewhere were not best pleased, and over the past two years they have sought to marginalise and vilify Dr Ermakova, to demonstrate that her research methods were fundamentally flawed, and to spread the message that her findings were anomalous and untrustworthy. One of their on-going criticisms has been that the research cannot be trusted because it is not peer-reviewed and published in a "respectable" scientific journal. However, Dr Ermakova has admitted over and again that her facilities in Moscow and her research design are not perfect, and that there may be aspects of her work that can be improved. She has had no cooperation whatsoever from Monsanto or from the Russian Academy of Science, and indeed they have sought to block her research by starving her of funds and refusing to supply her with GM soy for the feeding experiments. Against all the odds, she has repeated her experiments five times, with very similar results on each occasion. And she has repeatedly called for others to replicate or improve her experiments -- a call which has gone unheeded thus far. It does not take a genius to work out that the GM industry is very scared that any new research will simply confirm Ermakova's findings. For the same reason, Pusztai's controversial research involving GM potatoes (3) has never been repeated. So the instinct of the GM industry, when shown research results which are uncomfortable, is to do what it has always done -- shoot the messenger.
The key events are as follows. We have in our possession the crucial documents to support every single point.
1. In the summer of 2007 a group of four scientists (Bruce M Chassy, L. Val Giddings, Alan McHughen and Vivian Moses) contacted the Editor of Nature Biotechnology and asked him if he would facilitate an opportunity for them to attack the research methods and findings of Dr Irina Ermakova (4). He agreed to this request (5).
2. The Editor of the journal wrote to IE on 25th June 2007. Extracts: "I am writing to you because the journal has been approached by a group of authors wishing to critique the results of your work that have been discussed in public forums." "......... the journal would, however, prefer to provide you with an opportunity to present your own findings and conclusions in your own words, rather than a critique from one side. I was therefore wondering whether you be willing to answer (via e-mail or telephone) a set of questions about your work, with a view to their questions and answers being published as part of an article?"
3. In a letter dated 28 June the editor stated: "I envisage an article that would present the results and conclusions you previously discussed at the NAGS symposium on genetic modification in Russia, together with community feedback." (6)
4. In the exchange of correspondence between June and September 2007 IE repeatedly asked if she could submit a paper in the normal way, presenting her results for consideration, peer review, and eventual acceptance / rejection (6). But the Editor (letter dated 29 June) indicated his reluctance to accept a submission on the grounds that the research results "have already been published publicly and discussed widely in the media". He indicated that the results were "no longer eligible for peer review at Nature Biotechnology under our policies." On the same day IE responded that, having repeated her experiments five times, she had new data to report. The Editor then agreed to accept a short "presubmission enquiry", but continued to encourage her to participate in a question and answer session.
5. On 19 July the Editor sent his list of questions to IE, and she sent her responses to him on 2nd August. Her text was edited and finalized on 14th August after the provision of certain additional information requested by the Editor. With the text she provided 12 references.
6. On 7th August Ermakova's offer to submit a paper entitled "Comparison of effects of different kinds of maternal diet with soy modified by gene CP4 EPSPS on rat offspring" was turned down by Dr Kathy Aschheim, Senior editor of Nature Biotechnology, on the pretext that it would be more appropriate for another journal.
7. On 20 August the Senior Production Editor of Nature Biotechnology sent IE a "dummy proof" in PDF format (7), with the title "GM Soybeans and health safety -- a controversy reexamined" and with Irina V Ermakova listed beneath the title as author. Eight of the original 12 references had been deleted. In the introductory paragraph (presumably written by the Editor) were the words "Nature Biotechnology approached Ermakova to ask for a detailed account of her work in her own words. Her answers are presented below together with comments solicited from a group of researchers working in the field." The comments from the group of researchers were NOT included in the dummy proof, which was referred to as a "publication proof." (8)
8. On 12th September, without any further reference to IE, the article was published on the Nature Biotechnology web site. It was now a totally different article, with Andrew Marshall listed as author, with 20 new references (all chosen to bolster the case made by the "group of four"), with photos and biographical notes on Val Giddings, Bruce Chassy, Alan McHugh and Vivian Moses, and with lengthy critiques by the group inserted after every one of the answers provided by IE.
9. The critiques printed in the article are not attributed to individuals, but appear to be the "agreed positions" of the four of them working together. There must have been considerable communication between them before the wording of each critique was finalized for publication.
10. On the day of publication, IE asked for a copy of the published article, and it was sent to her in PDF format (9). This was the first time she had seen it in its final form, and the first time she had seen the comments from the "group of four." She was surprised to see that her name had been replaced by that of Andrew Marshall as author. On the same day the Editor sent an Email to IE to explain the rationale behind the change of attribution at the head of the article. He wrote: ......."it was decided to present the article from a neutral point of view of an editor, with both your viewpoints and those of the other authors presented together."
The cunning little plan
It is clear from the early correspondence that the initiative for this extraordinary piece of deception and duplicity came from the "group of four". At no time was IE told who these people were, or what sort of "community" they represented. Had she been told, she would certainly not have cooperated in this exercise, in view of the known reputations of the "group of four" as spokesmen for the GM industry and as researchers with no expertise in her research field (10). She was not told at any stage what final form the article would take, and as we can see from the above she was led to believe that the "other side" would ask the questions, and she would be able to provide the answers.
The statement in the article referring to "comments solicited from a group of researchers" is patently untrue, since the Editor's letter dated 25 June makes it clear that the researchers made the first approach to him, and that he responded favourably to their suggestion.
Throughout the correspondence, IE was cooperative and trusting, and clearly assumed that the Editor was intent upon publishing an honest discussion of assorted scientific issues (6). As recently as publication day (12th September 2007), she was under the impression that this was "her" article, and that her name should have been on the piece as author. Indeed, this was a natural conclusion, given the nature of the "dummy proof" which she was sent.
The sending of this "dummy proof" is in our experience absolutely unprecedented, and is in total contravention of good academic practice. It is also unethical, and can only be interpreted as a deliberate (and successful) attempt to lead an honest scientist into a sordid trap laid by academics who should know better, with the connivance of a supposedly respectable journal. The actions of this group of five men are doubly reprehensible when one considers that English is not Dr Ermakova's first language and that she was not in a position to interpret the subtleties of wording in the Editor's letters to her.
The liaison between the "peer reviewers" in this case also raises serious questions, since traditionally peer reviewers should be acknowledged experts in the field; they should be chosen by the Editor; they should act independently, without reference to one another; they should be prepared to put their names to their own comments; and they should be willing to communicate with the author prior to publication with a view to improving the quality of the submitted material. But the most crucial point of all is that reviewers should always assume that the colleague whose work is being scrutinized is honest and sincere; and the comments from the "group of four" are singularly lacking in respect for an honest scientist who has been working under very difficult conditions.
Since none of the comments in the final article is attributed to any individual, there is a distinct possibility that they were written either (a) by a "ghost writer" or (b) by a much larger group of individuals from the GM industry working together.
As a piece of crude character assassination, this is on a par with what happened to Arpad Pusztai in 1999, and there are some VERY serious questions that now need to be asked about the editorial practices, affiliations and motives of a journal which used to be a serious scientific publication (11). This is "tabloid academic publishing" involving deception, lies, duplicity and editorial malpractice. What we effectively have in this article is a piece of very brutal and biased (and inaccurate) peer reviewing by a self-selected and ill-qualified group of GM proponents (12), in print and on the record, and published without the vilified scientist being given any opportunity to defend herself.