GENTECH archive


publicity in Canada

Dear Joe:

As a Canadian actively interested in this field, I wonder if you can
enlighten us on the following editorial?

I am especially interested to learn who the "scare-mongering scientist from
the United States" and the "leading promoter of cancer fears (generates
publicity with questionable research)" might have been.  I suspect that
"David Suzuld" is a mis-spelling of David Suzuki.

This article is doubly amusing to me because 4 of my high school friends
made the cult favorite movie "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes".


     Financial Post (CANADA)
     Tuesday, May 4, 1999
     by Terence Corcoran


        A concerted campaign against industry, science, and biotechnology
     took off yesterday, with CBC Radio One as the launch pad.  It began with
     morning news reports of a "study" of health-care professionals who are
     said to be concerned about the risks of genetically modified (GM) food.
     It gathered steam later on CBS's This morning with a radically slanted
     smear of biotech leader Monsanto, the first in a series of biotechnology
     reports to be aired through the week.  Another CBC Radio show, Ideas,
     last night ran the fourth segment of David Suzuld's From Naked Ape to
     Superspecies, an alarmist take on the "unnatural" business of human
     research into biotechnology.

        In Ottawa, simultaneously, Senator Eugene Whelan's Agriculture
     Committee questioned Monsanto executives on bovine growth hormone.
     Other media can be expected to pick up the gene theme before the week
     of industry-bashing and alarmism comes to an end next Saturday in
     Ottawa.  There, at a conference sponsored by the Public Service
     Alliance of Canada, Maude Barlow will join a scare-mongering scientist
     from the United States and others in an attempt to modify Canadian
     public opinion by creating a generalized fear that our food may be
     unsafe.  They want to save the world from killer tomatoes.

        It's a campaign that has worked well in Europe, where the
     introduction of genetically modified food has been set back a decade or
     more.  Frankenstein Food is now part of the language in Britain.
     Genetic research has been compared with Nazi experiments in genetics.
     Intimidated by media hysterics and an alarmed public, supermarkets no
     longer carry genetically modified food.

        With the fall of Europe in the background, the anti-biotech forces
     are trying to invade North America, using Maude Barlow's Council of
     Canadians and the CBC as local command posts.  If they can take Canada,
     then maybe the United States -- the centre of biotech and genetic
     research -- will be next.

        In view of what is obviously a national concerted effort, the
     Financial Post Comment page hereby declares Junk Science Week.
     Today's page is the first of five during the week that will examine
     some of the issues surrounding the spread of junk science as a vehicle
     for spooking people into believing that their food, environment, and
     virtually every man-made product pose health and environmental risks.

        Throughout the week, the Comment page will contain reports outlining
     how science is being abused to create phantom risks, and how the
     benefits of genetic research and biotech are in peril of being lost in
     the global campaign. We'll examine how a scientist, a leading promoter
     of cancer fears, generates publicity with questionable research.  A
     Canadian economist will suggest ways policymakers in Ottawa can begin
     to realistically address the risks and opportunities arising from new
     developments in science.

        Today's page contains a return to an earlier report on Greenpeace's
     campaign against intravenous bags and Baxter International Inc., one
     of the companies that manufactures them.  Writer Michael LeGault
     responds to Greenpeace's claims.  And immediately below is a brief
     synopsis of the US Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to
     eliminate statistical significance as a relevant basis for conclusions
     about health and environmental impacts.

        The phrase "junk science" does not sit well with some.  It seems
     extreme, and unconducive to constructive dialogue.  But junk science
     can be usefully defined.  A few years ago, a U.S. scientist identified
     two common denominators:  distortion of scientific fact, and
     exaggeration of risk.  I would take the definition further to include
     another element, the politicization of science.  Junk science occurs
     when facts are distorted, risk is exaggerated, and, the results are
     steeped in politics and ideology.

        Ideology certainly dominated CBC Radio's This Morning show
     yesterday.  Reporter Don Carty is a smooth-talking manipulator of
     words who gives his slanted reports a thin veneer of objectivity.  For
     this biotech report, Mr. Carty used two sources with environmental and
     ecological biases to build a political foundation for an attack on
     biotechnology and genetically modified foods.  One environmentalist
     provided voice-over for a montage of Frankenstein Food stories from
     Europe.  The other ran through the history of Monsanto, portrayed as
     the provider of PCB's dioxin, Agent Orange, and material that exploded
     in Houston harbour.  The show could have been titled:  Monsanto, the
     Killer Biotech Company that Wants to Wipe out the World with
     Genetically Modified Food.  It was clear that the expert charged with
     recounting Monsanto's history had an agenda grounded in the familiar
     themes of extreme environmentalism, a world where it's taken for
     granted that PCB's are the most carcinogenic substances known to man,
     and that new cancer-causing agents are being developed by industry
     every day.

        Mr. Carty, by the way, will chair one of the panels at next
     Saturday's PSAC Conference on food safety.