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The pulse of scientific freedom in the Age of the Biotech Industry

(Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release:

Biology, arguably the central science for the 21st Century, is being transformed by the influence of an ailing but politically powerful biotech industry. An important part of this transformation is the suppression of precautionary science and dissent, and the mounting influence of the industry on regulatory and research institutions.

Come hear the story of this suppression for yourself, from the scientists themselves.

Arpad Pusztai, Norwegian Food Sciences Institute, formerly Principal Scientific Officer, Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland.
John Losey, Associate Professor, Cornell University.
Tyrone Hayes, Associate Professor, UC Berkeley.
Ignacio Chapela, Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley.

December 10, 2003
7-9 pm
155 Dwinelle Hall
University of California, Berkeley

Introduced by Michael Pollan
Moderated by Mark Dowie

The four participants in this conversation have performed simple, yet dramatic discoveries that question the wisdom of a quarter century of commitment to an agenda of agricultural development based on intensive technological dependence.

The publication of their research brought these researchers world-wide attention, but made them into urgent targets for suppression from an ailing but still powerful Biotech industry. As a consequence, each of the participants has encountered not only controversy, but also threats to their research, reputations, and livelihoods. Behind their research lies a commitment to make their best knowledge available for the public. Behind the hurdles they have faced lies one of the greatest challenges to public, democratic discourse in our century: the growing influence of private interests in the scientific enterprise.

The commonalities of their stories and the peculiarities of their personal histories provide a unique window into the mechanisms through which this threat operates. This will be the first time that a meeting between these scientists will take place, providing a unique opportunity for the public to gain insight into the bizantine workings of the academic-industrial complex. Beyond the discussion of technicalities of their discoveries, this evening of conversation should provide the opportunity to reflect upon the challenges to scientific freedom and dissent at a time when these basic principles are under attack.

Participant Details:

  • Arpad Pusztai - Consultant, Norwegian Food Sciences Institute, formerly Principal Scientific Officer, Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland.
    Discovery. Cytological and histological damage to rodents fed with transgenically-modified potatoes.
    Suppression. Dr Pusztai was fired from his position of 30 years as a scientist at the Rowett Institute in Scotland. His research files were seized, including in a break-in at his home. Major campaign of discreditation.
    Further references. http://plab.ku.dk/tcbh/Pusztaitcbh.htm , http://www.psrast.org/pusztai.htm
  • John Losey - Associate Professor, Cornell University.
    Discovery. Damage and death in Monarch butterfly caterpillars fed with pollen from transgenically-modified corn.
    Suppression: Promotion of research targetted towards discreditation of his discoveries. Media campaign.
    Further references. http://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arc99/5_22_99/fob1.htm , http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/May99/Butterflies.bpf.html
  • Tyrone Hayes - Associate Professor, UC Berkeley
    Discovery. Damage to tissues, organs and ecology of amphibian reproduction due to low levels of Atrazine, the most widely-used chemical in US agriculture.
    Suppression. Attempts at suppressing, delaying and derailing research. Targetted research to discredit his findings. Discreditation campaign.
    Further references. Blumestyk, G. The Price of Research. The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 31, 2003: A26. http://www.mindfully.org/Pesticide/2003/Syngenta-Tyrone-Hayes31oct03.htm
  • Ignacio Chapela - Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley
    Discovery. Genetic contamination of maize by transgenic (GMO) DNA in its center of origin in Oaxaca, México.
    Suppression. Attempts at suppressing, delaying and derailing research. Direct threats. Coordinated, industry-funded international discreditation campaign.
    Further references. http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2000/03/press.htm, http://www.mindfully.org/GE/2003/Ignacio-Chapela30jun03.htm , http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021028&s=schapiro , http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/1871216.stm
  • Moderator
    Mark Dowie is an investigative reporter and award-winning writer on technology and the environment. His work has received, among others an unprecedented four National Magazine Awards. He was editor and publisher of Mother Jones. Two relevant books by Mark Dowie are "American Foundations: an investigative history" (MIT Press, 2002), and "Losing Ground: American environmentalism at the end of the Twentieth Century". (MIT Press, 1996).
  • Michael Pollan is Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Sunday Magazine and a celebrated writer on food and the environment. Some of his relevant writings include: "The Botany of Desire", "Power Steer", "Playing God in the Garden" and "The (Agri)Culture of Obesity".

    For more information, go to: http://nature.berkeley.edu/pulseofscience