Oh dear Lord. I don’t know if Jane Goodall is simply ignorant of the evidence for the safety of GM (genetically modified) food, or, like Lynn Margulis, has become so taken by her own fame that she thinks her pronouncements on subjects outside her field are decisive. Or it could be that the Daily Mail’s report is simply wrong, but I’d bet big money against that. And it’s even worse, for Goodall apparently called the advocates of GM food “anti-science,” which is in fact a characterization of her own attitude on the issue. As the Mail reports:
Dame Jane Goodall, the renowned primate expert, has condemned ‘deluded’ politicians for pushing ‘Frankenstein Food’.
The highly respected academic has endorsed a new book, which argues the companies responsible for developing genetically modified farming and food have twisted the evidence to minimise the dangers.
. . . Dame Jane argues that the advocates of GM food have ignored evidence of harm with the result it is they who are guilty of being ‘anti-science’.
Here are more of her claims, which I’ll reproduce in extenso (I haven’t read her foreword)
Dame Jane’s concerns have been raised in the foreword to a new book, ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’, which is written by the American public interest lawyer, Steve Druker.
Its publication comes as the US is seeing a growing backlash against GM. Just last week it emerged that the country’s favourite chocolate manufacturer, Hershey, is to drop GM from its products.
Dame Jane said she has become appalled as what she calls a ‘shocking corruption of the life forms of the planet’.
She said the GM process, which involves adding foreign genes to plants to create toxins to fend off insects or give them immunity to being sprayed with chemical pesticides has fundamentally changed them. [JAC: Yes, but so has artificial selection, which in fact changes more genes in a species than does “the GM process.”]
However, she complains that supporters of the technology have committed a ‘fraud’ by trying to give the false impression that these new plants are essentially the same as those created by conventional plant breeding.
She said: ‘This very real difference between GM plants and their conventional counterparts is one of the basic truths that biotech proponents have endeavoured to obscure. As part of the process, they portrayed the various concerns as merely the ignorant opinions of misinformed individuals – and derided them as not only unscientific, but anti-science.
There’s a difference between the technology of gene transfer (used in making GMOs) and that of artificial selection, as the latter involves selecting on naturally-occurring (or induced) mutations in a species or breed; but that difference is irrelevant to the real question: whether GMOs are dangerous. And on that the science is decisive: the answer is, “so far, no.”
More from the Mail:
Importantly, she claims, the companies have spread disinformation to try and win public support.
‘Druker describes how amazingly successful the biotech lobby has been – and the extent to which the general public and government decision makers have been hoodwinked by the clever and methodical twisting of the facts and the propagation of many myths. Moreover, it appears that a number of respected scientific institutions, as well as many eminent scientists, were complicit in this relentless spreading of disinformation.’
Dame Jane is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.
And this is simply reprehensible;
. . . However, Dame Jane warns it would be an enormous risk to accept the technology and describes Mr Druker as a hero worthy of a Nobel prize for lifting the lid on the truth about GM.
Nobel Prize? Seriously? There’s more about Druker’s book in the article, and you can see its Amazon listing here (it comes out March 20).
We have, I think, seen Bill Nye recant his similar claims about GMOs, and let’s hope that Goodall does the same. But somehow I don’t think she will. And I’d love to see her debate the same GMO proponent who offered to go up against Nye. (Nye refused.)
Given Goodall’s high profile and influence, she really should be more careful about this kind of stuff. What she says will influence far more people than what even a renowned plant biologist says. And, if her words further inhibit the adoption of safe and life-saving foods like golden rice, she’s even behaving dangerously.