April 03, 2002

Conquering Nature ...and Sidestepping the Debate over Biotech and Biodiversity

Still More on the Mexican GM Maize Scandal

De-naturing Nature: Nature magazine - arguably one of the world’s most influential peer-reviewed science publications - in an editorial note today (April 2002), states that contrary to its report of November 29th, 2001, “…the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper.” In other words, farmers’ fields in Oaxaca and Puebla have not been proven to be contaminated with GM maize. The current issue of Nature contains two articles by scientists refuting the original contamination claims and a reply from the two scientists who authored the original peer-reviewed report. David Quist and Ignacio Chapela of the University of California at Berkeley stand by their study and add that other studies by the Mexican Government confirm their findings.

Blind-siding Biodiversity: Nature’s double take couldn’t have come at a better time for the biotech industry. Next Monday, more than 150 governments and equal numbers of civil society organizations will gather in The Hague, Netherlands for the tenth anniversary meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD – April 8 - 26). A moratorium on Terminator technology, the protection of forests, and discussions around a just-completed treaty on plant genetic resources are all on the agenda. The case of GM contamination in Mexico was bound to be on the minds of many delegations. The final week of meetings is set aside to review progress on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol adopted two years ago. The elements of that protocol and its crucial Precautionary Principle would bring the Mexican scandal to the fore as well. “If the CBD can’t act on the Mexican situation, if governments cannot agree that the Precautionary Principle applies in this case,” says Silvia Ribeiro of ETC, “then there is little hope that this ten-year old Convention serves any useful purpose.” Nature’s editorial could have the effect of de-fusing and confusing governmental concern.


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