4/11/2003

Científicos británicos protestan ante Blair por su gestión del debate sobre los OMG

Más de 100 científicos británicos, encabezados por el propio presidente del Comité de evaluación de nuevos alimentos de la Agencia de seguridad Alimentaria, se han dirigido al presidente Blair en una carta abierta denunciando como se está manejando el debate público sobre los OMG en el Reino Unido, especialmente en cuanto a dar pábulo a mensajes sensacionalistas en los medios de comunicación y a interpretaciones falsas y sesgadas de los hechos científicos, ante el silencio del Gobierno que no parece capaz de salir al paso.

Los científicos manifiestan sentirse desmoralizados por la hostilidad hacia su trabajo motivada por el tratamiento mediático que se esta dando a la cuestión y porque el Gobierno no sea capaz de combatir las posturas basadas en los prejuicios y la política, que nada tienen que ver con la cuestión de los OMG


Dear Prime Minister

The results of the Farm Scale Evaluations of three GM crops announced on 16th October were reported across the media as “the end of GM in the UK”. In fact the FSEs did not assess the effects of genetically modifying the crops, but rather the impact of different types of weed control. They had little to do with genetic modification, its processes or potential.

However the government’s reaction to the latest misleading reports on GM was to remain silent. Since 1999, the government has sponsored several protracted deliberations on GM but has consistently neglected opportunities to address any of the unsubstantiated assertions about the process of genetic modification and possible risks.

We feel you should be aware of the consequences of this ongoing failure to respond and to give a lead:

1. Demoralisation

Some scientists are leaving the UK, but many more are thoroughly demoralised by hostility to the work they do, which is continually misrepresented and even sabotaged. This is despite the new scientific opportunities afforded by developments like genomics. Those who have contributed many hours to public communication and government-sponsored deliberations feel undermined by the government’s failure to contradict false claims about ‘Frankenfoods’, health risks and ‘superweeds’.

2. Declining contribution to scientific development

Work on the basic science of genetic engineering and its applications to plants is being scaled down. This will inhibit our ability to contribute to scientific knowledge internationally, and to meet challenges like yield improvement, drought tolerance and reduced reliance on pesticides.

The government’s many initiatives in this prolonged deliberation on GM crops have been structured in a way that makes it impossible to clarify the nature of the scientific work or its opportunities. Genetic engineering of plants has been reduced to a matter of consumer preference; the public has been misinformed; and the efforts of scientists to communicate about genetic engineering have been misused.

For those of us who have spent our lives ‘doing research, publishing research and teaching research’ in the UK, it is distressing to experience such a backward slide; for others of us, and our students just starting out, it is deeply discouraging. More importantly, for society as a whole, if the same framework is applied in future decision-making, we risk seeing other technologies lose out to prejudice and procrastination.

Yours sincerely

Professor Derek C. Burke
Professor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia (1987-1995) Chairman ACNFP (1987-1997)
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This letter has been signed by the 114 individuals above in a personal capacity and not on behalf of their institutions or funding bodies.

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