July 21, 2011, San Francisco
A Greenpeace activist and mother, Heather McCabe, and her colleague took direct action to end an Australian government sponsored field trial of genetically modified wheat. The two entered an experimental farm run by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and used brush cutters to destroy a crop of the experimental wheat. “This GM wheat should never have left the lab,” said McCabe. “I am sick of being treated like a dumb Mum who doesn’t understand the science. As far as I am concerned, my family’s health is just too important. GM wheat is not safe, and if the government can’t protect the safety of my family, then I will.” This direct action by members of Greenpeace is the culmination of charges the government has quietly approved the first test of this genetically modified wheat fed to humans.
This follows an open letter to the Australian government challenging the safety of the proposed human trials of genetically modified wheat. Signed by eight scientists and doctors from around the world, the letter challenges the experiment and cites research showing inadvertent and unpredictable health damaging effects which can result when these GM products are fed to animals and could be predicted when fed to humans.
It also follows the release of a Greenpeace report entitled Australia’s Wheat Scandal: The Biotech Takeover of Our Daily Bread. The report shows that none of the other top five wheat producing countries in the world has approved testing of this GM wheat. It details 29 specific instances of GM contamination in Australia and documents 169 breaches of security licenses issued by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. The report also identifies conflicts of interest where two directors of Nufarm (Monsanto’s exclusive distributor of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready products in Australia) also served on the board of the CSIRO (governmental agency), during the period when field trials were approved for the GM wheat.
This report also cites articles in 2009 issues of Scientific American and Nature Biotechnology that discuss GM seed company contracts which prohibit independent researchers from access to the seed needed to conduct environmental and health research on these products. Further the history of research in this area consistently shows conflicting results between research conducted by the biotechnology companies and those of independent researchers.
Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 13, Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology describes the science of genetic engineering and the rapid adoption of its technology in the U.S., its country of origin. Further it describes the “genetic land rush” underway as companies stake their claims to own the genetics of life.
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