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[SANET-MG] canadian bureaucrat wants to regulate Ireland
The article below from GM watch deals with a peculiar situation. A
Canadian bureaucrat from Agriculture Canada poses as an "Irish Lad" to
comment on approval of GM potatoes in Ireland. Nowhere does he mention
that he is in the "red meat" genetics division of the Canadian
Government Ministry. Canadian Bureaucrats do not normally provide expert
opinion unless they have the direct permission from a Minister or an
Assistant Deputy Minister. The Agriculture Ministry seems to be engaging
in international funny business. By the way I have no recollection of
Prof. Levers rather irrational comments about me. It may be that is just
confidential information passed between bureaucrats and their academic
From GM watch
Amidst the escalating row over the prospect of GM potato trials in
Ireland, a "gmoireland" blog has been launched to provide "a blow by
blow commentary on the GM food debate in Ireland."
The new blog aims to provide a "commentary based on facts and not the
spin of either the Pro-GMOers or Anti-GMOers..." This careful
even-handedness receives repeated emphasis: "As the players come out
swinging in the next coming weeks and months on the issue of GM
crops/food in Ireland I will be providing commentary on the statements
and spin issued on both sides of the debate!!!" And again, "Be warned
the Anti-GMOesr [sic] and the PRO-GMOers.......... you are being
Also emphasised is the blogger's expertise: "I will try to add some
analysis and commentary in a little more depth than the media can..... I
have a science degree, graduate research carried out on the public
perceptions of GM food, published scientific papers on the topic of GM
food, previosuly [sic] worked as regulator of biotechnology derived
products in Canada , etc. etc. (yawn)".
The exact location of the blogger - Shane Morris, who also styles
himself on his blog, "CelticLad" - is a little unclear. In a letter to
the Irish paper, The Meath Chronicle, Morris gives his address as:
(GM crops have already lost their Irish virginity)
But on his blog he talks about, "Sitting here in -15C cold in Ottawa"
and waxes lyrical about Canada, "I love it here!!!...Canada is the best
country in the world".
Unfortunately, Shane Morris's even-handedness has so far been limited
to attacking critics of GM, particularly Canadian ones like Joe Cummins.
And the character of those attacks seems somewhat less than even-handed.
In the case of Prof Cummins, for instance, Shane Morris starts off by
referring to "Prof. Joe Cummins (retired)" and his "so called 'risk
assessment'", and then downgrading the professor emeritus thereafter in
his blog to plain "Mr. Cummins".
And while Morris blithely claims that on an earlier occasion, "Chris
Leaver from the University of Oxford" rejected "Cummins so called
'scientific' suggestions" as "pure fiction, and lies", he fails to make
any mention of the fact that Leaver is a highly controversial figure
within the GM debate with a long history of paid consultancy for the
Something Chris Leaver has in common with Shane Morris is a pretence to
neutrality. Leaver told one journalist, for instance, that he was "not
particularly pro or anti-GM". Leaver has also claimed to be paid out of
public monies and "not by the GM companies" despite his nine years of
paid consultancy by the industry.
The CelticLad's background could also do with a mite more detail. The
graduate research carried out on the public perceptions of GM food that
Shane Morris refers to in his blog, was overseen by Douglas Powell at
the University of Guelph with whom Morris has also published papers on GM.
Powell has been called the "darling of the pro-biotech lobby and its
chief attack dog" and has been accused of using his "regular appearances
on the op-ed pages of the nation to denigrate anyone who criticizes the
science or the regulatory framework around biotechnology".
In an article entitled Rude Science in the Manitoba Cooperator (58(46):4
21 June 2001), editor John Morriss reviewed Powell's performance as a
science communicator, describing him as a "tenured Assistant Professor
at a Canadian university" who at some point "morphed into a full-blown
apologist for biotechnology, while still operating under his 'food
For Morriss, even more serious than Powell's role as a biotech
apologist, is his "aggressive if not vicious attacks on other scientists
who dare to challenge his views". Morriss gives the example of an
"offensive attack on no less than the Royal Society of Canada and the
members of the panel it appointed to review food biotechnology". That
attack was co-authored by none other than our blogger, Shane Morris.
Powell has also been criticised for the character of the graduate
education programme that Shane Morris was part of. A colleague of
Powell's at the University of Guelph, Ann Clark, in a presentation
sponsored by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, strongly
criticised those like Powell who abused their role as educators for
propaganda purposes. Clark showed through an analysis of a misleading
article about Percy Schmeiser by one of Powell's students "that students
are already mastering the art of doublespeak". Clark also said, "Those
entrusted with graduate education frame the research questions and
methods which solidify the values of the students they supervise. And
what some are doing today under the umbrella of academic freedom is
actually not far removed from the proclamations of Orwell's Ministry of
While studying under Powell at Guelph, Shane Morris was also very active
within Powell's controversial "Food Safety Network". FSN's activities
enjoyed the financial support of Monsanto, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Syngenta,
Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta Seeds USA, ConAgra, McCain, McDonald's,
Nestle, Ag-West Biotech, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc., Southern Crop
Protection Association, Pharmacia, AgCare and the (biotech industry
funded) Council for Biotechnology Information.
Worryingly, Shane Morris went on from this background to work, as he
says, "as regulator of biotechnology derived products in Canada". In
fact, Health Canada and its Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have
a troubling reputation for pro-industry bias and for gagging and even
sacking scientists who step out of line.
Who better, then, than Shane Morris - with his training first under a
"full-blown apologist for biotechnology" and then as a Canadian
bureaucrat - to provide a commentary on the GM debate in Ireland "based
on facts" and totally free of spin.
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