Home » Biotechnology »Health »News » Currently Reading:

Corn Fakes

November 2, 2007 Biotechnology, Health, News No Comments

The article below is reprinted from the British magazine Private Eye, No. 1194, 28 September-11 October 2007. The ‘heavy-handed’ libel threats referred to below temporarily closed the GM Watch website this summer.

Heavy-handed libel threats on the part of a biotech researcher have done little to silence criticism of a scientific paper claiming that shoppers prefer GM produce.

Published in the British Food Journal three years ago, the paper was based on the findings from a Canadian farm store where customers were offered a choice of GM or non-GM sweetcorn. The four researchers concluded that 50 percent more people opted for the GM crop. The journal branded the study its “most outstanding paper” of the year.

Alas, the paper did not disclose that above the non-GM corn was a sign asking shoppers: “Would you eat wormy sweetcorn?”, while the GM crop was signed: “quality sweetcorn.” The Canadian journalist who originally uncovered the story said there had been pro-GM literature in the shop, but nothing from GM’s critics.

UK campaign group GM Watch published a photo of the wormy sweetcorn sign under the title ‘Award for Fraud’. Following its expose, in May last year, the New Scientist carried demands from a researcher on scientific ethics at Cambridge University that the British Food Journal withdraw the paper.

The journal’s editor refused, although he did print a letter condemning the paper alongside one from one of its authors, Douglas Powell of Kansas State University, dismissing the allegations. Powell said the signs were only up for a week, contained the language of consumers and were “not intended to manipulate consumer purchasing patterns”.

Then, last month another of the paper’s authors, Canadian government analyst Shane Morris, threatened a libel action against GM Watch’s internet service provider.

Morris said the wormy signs had been taken down long before he joined the research team on 27 September 2000. He put two photos on his blog that he said showed the “wormy” sign had been removed and replaced. But a computer scientist who saw the images disputed this. And a Toronto-based food policy expert, Dr Rod MacCrae, who visited the shop on September 27 2000, told the Eye: “All I can tell you is that a wormy corn sign looking very much like the one in GM Watch’s photo, was there at the farm the day I visited.”

Dr Richard Jennings, who lectures on scientific practice at Cambridge University, is adamant the paper should have been withdrawn. “The case is a flagrant fraud, as far as I see it. It was a sin of omission by failing to divulge information which quite clearly should have been disclosed.” But then, if the researchers had disclosed the wormy corn labels, would any respected scientific journal have published it?

Reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE www.private-eye.co.uk

Comment on this Article:

Science News on the Web

Why Independent Science News?

Scientific inventions and ideas shape the future. As science becomes ever more beset by commercial and ideological pressures, there is urgent need for scientific reporting and analysis from an independent, expert, public interest perspective. With this standard, Independent Science News works to shape a future that is biodiverse, just, and healthy for everyone.
More about us...

Sign up to our mailing list

E-mail address:
Name (optional):

Related News Articles

How “Extreme Levels” of Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm

Can the Scientific Reputation of Pamela Ronald, Public Face of GMOs, Be Salvaged?

No Scientific Consensus on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms

The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt

New Report Links Food, Climate and Agricultural Policies

Psychiatrists plead to continue funding of genetic approaches to disease

23andMe disproves its own business model

How Agriculture Can Provide Food Security Without Destroying Biodiversity

Commentaries

Edward Snowden’s Testimony to the European Parliament on NSA Spying and its Consequences

Edward Snowden Barton Gellman/Getty Images

Independent Science News has decided to reprint (1) in full the March 7th testimony of Edward Snowden to the European Parliament. Snowden’s testimony is vitally important for every citizen in every country to understand, yet it has barely been covered by the commercial or (non-commercial) global media. At stake is the …

The Health Care Doctors Forgot: Why Ordinary Food Will Be the Future of Medicine

Apple and a Pear

by T Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus, Cornell University The problem Few issues have become so intensely debated and politically charged as the need to reform the health care system. This debate has resulted in the ObamaCare program (The Affordable Care Act), which aims to expand and improve …

Fakethrough! GMOs and the Capitulation of Science Journalism

Biotechnology

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Good journalism examines its sources critically, it takes nothing at face value, places its topics in a historical context, and it values above all the public interest. Such journalism is, most people agree, essential to any equitable and open system of government. These statements about journalism …

The Founding Fables of Industrialised Agriculture

Farming in Italy

by Colin Tudge Governments these days are not content with agriculture that merely provides good food. In line with the dogma of neoliberalism they want it to contribute as much wealth as any other industry towards the grand goal of “economic growth”. High tech offers to reconcile the two ambitions …

More Commentaries...

Reviews

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

Biology as Ideology

Author: by Richard Lewontin ISBN: 0140232192 Publisher: Penguin books (1991) Biologists know that complex traits are typically associated with genetic variation between individuals. Nevertheless, if we hear on the news that obesity, antisocial behaviour or some other disorder has a strong genetic component, we are likely to attach special significance …

The Unsettling of America

The Unsettling of America

Author: Wendell Berry ISBN: 0871568772 Publisher: Sierra Club books (1977) In 2002, peasant associations from all over Asia organised an international scientific conference. The motivation for the conference was the fact that peasants and their leaders had no dialogue with agricultural scientists, either from their own countries or with those …

More Reviews...