(MintPress) – The results of a two year $4 million study linking the growth of tumors in rats to Monsanto’s genetically modified maize continues to be the source of a media controversy, as Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, professor of molecular biology at Caen University in France, suffers the wrath of the multi-million dollar smear campaign.
Despite calls to label GMO products in the U.S., independent farmers, environmentalists and consumer advocates have faced an uphill battle to educate the American public by letting consumers know about possible risks to human health. The latest controversy demonstrates the extent to which Monsanto will protect corporate profits at the expense of consumer health.
Last month’s publication continues a trend of growing public pushback by farmers and local communities unwillingly to submit to the unethical practices of a big agricultural corporation.
In elections last month, Californians voted to defeat Proposition 37 requiring GMO labels on food products. However, the growing vocal opposition — outspent 5 to 1 in ad campaigns — shows 4.1 million Californians voting in favor of GMO labeling, a clear sign that public skepticism and outright opposition to unsafe products is growing in the U.S.
Proposition 37 was authored by James Wheaton, president of the Environmental Law Foundation. After receiving an endorsement from the California Right to Know Campaign, Wheaton collected more than 971,000 signatures in support of the proposition, nearly double the 555,000 needed to get a voter sponsored initiative on the ballot in the state of California.
While there was robust support for the labels, a major counter campaign supported mainly by large agricultural corporations successfully derailed the initiative through the mass publication of campaign literature, radio and TV ads swaying voters.
Monsanto, Bayer, BASF, DuPont, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg and Heinz, among others, raised more than $48 million on advertising in support of the “Vote No” campaign attempting to shut down the labeling legislation. The Vote Yes coalition of small farmers and consumer rights advocates had just $6.7 million at their disposal.
If Monsanto allegedly produces products safe for human consumption, a label indicating the presence of genetically modified organisms would simply increase consumer knowledge at little cost to the manufacturer.
However, like Seralini’s research, the elaborate corporate media campaign to shut down a mere labeling shows the extent to which the Monsanto propaganda machine will go to silence criticism of products that are likely harmful for human health. However, in the long run, money cannot beat the findings of legitimate scientific criticism.
Incontrovertible findings create controversy
A study published in September by a team of researchers in France threw gasoline on the already contentious GMO debate when strong evidence from the meticulous study found significant health problems in rats given GMO corn compared to regular, unmodified corn.
The Monsanto engineered maize, known as NK603, is modified to resist the company’s herbicide, Roundup.
Professor Seralini tested the GMO corn on 200 rats. Among all the rats exposed to GMO corn, 50 percent of the male and 70 percent of the females died prematurely, as opposed to 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.
In September, Seralini published his findings in the reputable peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology and held a press conference to discuss the findings of his experiment.
Although the experiment was conducted in a transparent method with the highest academic integrity, the backlash continues virtually unabated in an effort to discredit Seralini, his findings and to debunk any causal link between Monsanto GMO corn and health problems found in the test rats.
The findings were quickly rebuffed, first and foremost by London-based Science Media Centre (SMC) by providing journalists in the U.S. with convenient “evidence” to counter damning findings that showed Monsanto maize causing tumors in lab rats.
Some Western press, including Forbes magazine, went so far as to label the original French study “a fraud” in an article meant to silence public criticism of Monsanto. Forbes magazine’s Henry I. Miller, a self-described op-ed writer who “debunks the worst, most damaging, most hypocritical junk science,” has resorted to ad hominem attacks on Seralini’s character in the no holds barred assault on reasonable scientific inquiry and research.
In a September op-ed, Miller went so far as to tear down Seralini, accusing him of conducting shoddy research and “gross scientific misconduct.”
“We were mistaken about Seralini. The experiments reported last week show that he has crossed the line from merely performing and reporting flawed experiments to committing gross scientific misconduct and attempting fraud,” writes Miller.
A cacophony of calls for Seralini to hand over all research data and to even rescind his publication comes at the behest of corporate paid lobbyists, industry scientists and big agriculture spokespeople. However, not all members of the mainstream media succumbed to the firestorm of criticism heaped on Seralini.
John Vidal, a contributor to the Guardian newspapers, suggests in a recent post on his environmental blog that the “trial suggesting a GMO maize strain causes cancer has attracted a torrent of abuse, but it cannot be swept under the carpet.” Many of the criticisms, Vidal points out, are specious, designed by Monsanto supporters to deflect legitimate scientific criticism.
Loss of farmers’ rights
Internationally, the pushback has been much stronger than in the U.S., but has focused largely upon national sovereignty.
The Indian government sued Monsanto for biopiracy last year, claiming that the American corporation stole indigenous Indian plants with the help of local collaborators. After stealing the crops, mostly varieties of eggplant, Monsanto allegedly planned to genetically modify the crops to create new plant varieties.
The corporation has yet to compensate farmers or the Indian government for the stolen plants. Leo Saldanha, director of the Environmental Support Group, says that the theft is in violation of Indian biodiversity laws.
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