Science for Sale

The Christian civilizing mission justified colonial plunder in the past. Now the renewed “Scramble for Africa” is sold as the defence of democracy against ‘Al Qaeda’ – the mythical enemy in the “war on terror”; in reality mercenaries primed, paid and armed by the West. All the old imperial overlords are involved, notably France and Britain, but the endgame is US domination of the continent and hegemony over its resources.  Conquest is not the only threat. A new order of priests is preparing to unleash pestilence and famine, on a scale unimaginable even in Africa.

The novelist Will Self compares economic prognosis these days with haruspicy – the Roman practice of divining the will of the gods by inspecting the entrails of sacrificial animals. “Like all priesthoods, the economics one depends for its hold over the credulous on a form of arcane knowledge. In the case of the economists their vulgate is mathematics – and in particular its baffling econometric form.” That’s why establishment economists don’t make sense; their real objective is to promote corporate and government policy directly or by obfuscation.

Science provides a similar service, cloaking mumbo jumbo as “research” to endorse the safety of deadly chemical, biological and pharmaceutical products. This branch of the priesthood has been thrown into turmoil at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Brussels, momentarily at least, by 200 rats. The rodents were used in a 24 month study to test the toxicity of GM maize – the NK603 variety already widespread in South Africa – and its partner the Roundup herbicide. Both are produced by the American biotechnology giant, Monsanto. Under the license agreement, Roundup must be used with the seeds which are genetically modified to resist its weed-killing effect.

The study was conducted by a team of scientists at France’s Caen University led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini. The report of the findings was peer reviewed over four months before publication in September last year in ‘Food and Chemical Toxicology’, a serious international scientific journal. The results were alarming. Rats fed on the maize showed an increase in tumours of up to 400 percent, severe liver and kidney damage, disabling of the pituitary gland and disruption of sex-hormonal balance.

Remarkably this was the first long-term independent study of the effects of a GM diet on rats; 20 years after GM seeds were approved for commercial release in the US without the need for any government testing. Monsanto and the industry conducted their own 90 day studies on NK603. Signs of toxicity were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful”. But the Seralini study showed the first tumours only appeared 4 to 7 months after the rats were put on a GM maize regime. Industry reassurances were suddenly worthless.

In 2009 EFSA had enthusiastically recommended approval of NK603 on the basis of Monsanto’s tests supported by member states like Spain and Holland which had applied to license the seeds in the first place. Its reaction to the study was to issue in November a press release claiming, “Serious defects in the design and methodology of a paper by Séralini et al. mean it does not meet acceptable scientific standards and there is no need to re-examine previous safety evaluations of genetically modified maize NK603.”  Bunkum! The charges show more spite than bite. But the response was not surprising.

More than half of the members of the EFSA GMO Panel, including its chair, have a conflicting interest in the biotech industry. This is not a special case. Co-option is a fact everywhere. The GM lobby has succeeded in framing the issue as a debate between those who are pro and those who are anti-science, or in the case of the Seralani study as a dispute between good and bad science. This is a fraud leaning on an established methodology and philosophy for authority – but it is dangerous to dissent.

In 1998 Dr Arpad Pusztai, the UK’s leading gene scientist told television viewers he did not think genetically modified potatoes were safe to eat. The potatoes had been fed to rats for 110 days with disturbing results. For sounding the alarm he was swiftly and sensationally sacked – together with his wife – in a campaign of vilification that stretched from the prestigious Royal Society to Tony Blair at the head of government. That was the end of independent testing.

Substantial equivalence, the guideline that as long as a GM potato looks and tastes like a potato it is the same thing, is hardly a scientific principle. It’s a political concession to multinational power sanctioning irresponsibility. There is no regulatory requirement, in any country in the world, for GM food to be tested to see whether it is safe for humans to eat.

Real science would acknowledge that genetic modification is far more complex and unpredictable than previously thought; that there is no evidence that genetically modified crops provide any additional benefit but abundant proof of their threat to biodiversity and agricultural communities. Since 1995, a quarter of a million Indian farmers have killed themselves – the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history – in the wake of the introduction of Monsanto’s Bt Cotton.

Monsanto’s power goes beyond its ability to profit from the sale of seeds and bespoke weed-killer. It holds the patent on technology that allows it to produce terminator seeds which will not reproduce, forcing farmers to purchase seed from season to season, destroying old patterns of seed saving and exchange.  With that comes the power to control food supplies and populations.

William Engdahl in his book “Seeds of Destruction” says, “The US and UK governments’ relentless backing for genetically modified seeds was in fact the implementation of a decades long policy of the Rockefeller Foundation since the 1930s when it funded Nazi eugenics research – i.e. mass scale population reduction, and control of darker skinned races by an Anglo Saxon white elite. As some of these circles saw it, war as a means of population reduction was costly and not that efficient.”

The GM industry has carefully cultivated the axiom that technology is science in motion and equals progress. It’s been a key factor in allaying public suspicion and overcoming resistance. Junk science has also helped pharmaceutical corporations reap huge profits from the sale of toxic drugs aimed at a disease whose existence is yet to be proved. Brent Leung’s films, ‘House of Numbers’ (2009) and ‘The Emperor’s New Virus’ (2011) have given the public a candid and shocking view of what the leading scientific experts really know about AIDS.

Luc Montagnier, the French virologist credited with discovering the Human Immunodeficiency Virus says, “We can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected, our immune system will get rid of the virus within a few weeks, if you have a good immune system; and this is the problem also of the African people. Their nutrition is not very equilibrated…” He suggested basic nutrition and hygiene initiatives as opposed to the more spectacular search for a vaccine by Bill Gates. But “local governments they take advice of the scientific advisors from the intelligent institutions, and they don’t get this kind of advice very often.”

This is a break with the monolithic presentation of HIV infection as a death sentence to be prolonged by drugs. But it’s not a case of Montagnier being the odd one out. There’s little consensus about HIV and AIDS among the very scientists who claim to have established the link. They contradict each other about the most studied virus ever. Astonishingly, they are inconsistent about scientific method itself. The reason is simple. Beyond the pseudo-scientific sophistication, they’ve been reading entrails to find what they want.

Neither Montagnier nor Robert Gallo – who ‘rediscovered’ HIV a year later – could have found the virus with the technique they used. It’s not virus specific. There is no acceptable evidence that they isolated the virus. They produced no electron micrographs of the purified virus to enable accurate identification. In 1997 two studies attempted to redress the situation. The images they provided were useless.

It seems perfectly reasonable for the Perth Group which has been questioning AIDS science from the outset to suggest, “At present the only scientific conclusion one can draw is that neither Montagnier nor anybody else has proved the existence of a real virus”.  It is extraordinary that after 30 years and billions spent there is no picture of the killer. You don’t need a photo-opportunity however to grasp the threat that GM crops and an opportunistic AIDS policy pose in Africa.

Apart from investment in GM crops and a vaccine for AIDS, the Gate’s Foundation is also a partner with Monsanto and the Rockefeller Foundation – among others – in what is known as the “doomsday seed vault”.  This repository inside a mountain on Spitsbergen Island in the Barents Sea is designed to withstand even nuclear war and eventually house every crop seed in the world. The Svalbard facility has been built “so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future.” Given that almost all of the world’s seeds are already in protected banks this is disconcerting.  What has the haruspex told Bill and Melinda?