Edited by Peter
In May of this year, I attended a March Against Monsanto protest in Nottingham and the one thing that really stuck out to me was the lack of knowledge these protesters had. I can’t stress enough at how embarrassingly little these people knew about the things they were protesting against and how the majority of them were unable to answer the most basic of questions. Questions like ‘why are you specifically against GMOs?’ Many danced around the question or changed the subject to something different - for example claiming that they are not against GMOs, but are instead against pesticides, yet all were chanting at the top of their lungs in the streets of Nottingham “no more! GMO!”.
I found myself getting incredibly irritated with the people that showed up that day - not only because I believe that if you are unable to understand the basic science of the thing you are protesting against that you should not be there, but also for their lack of commitment. It happened to be a particularly wet day in Nottingham and the second that the march ended, the crowd dispersed, which is a real shame as I was hoping to interview a lot more of them than I did.
One of the few speeches I recorded before everyone left was from a woman named Tracey Lloyd who began with “whilst I am no expert” before telling the crowd that it is the process of genetically modifying an organism that actually causes the harm. She then referred to a Hungarian man who had apparently proved this in a study investigating the effects of genetically modified potatoes on rats and that as a result of making his research public he has lost his job.
Here she is referring to Árpád Pusztai and his 1999 paper “Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine”. Whilst it is true that Árpád lost his position because of the research, she missed out the fact that he flat out lied about the findings of his unpublished research on national TV. In 1998 Árpád was interviewed for Granada Televisions’s current affairs program Wold in Action. On the show he said that the rats in his experiment suffered stunted growth and suppressed immune systems and that more safety research was required. This is in stark contrast to what his data actually showed and what he told his boss he had said in the interview. As a result, he was suspended and his data was seized. Upon discovery that he lied about the results on TV, his annual contract was not renewed.
Árpád eventually published his research in The Lancet reporting a difference in thickness between the gut epithelium of rats fed genetically modified potatoes compared to those fed the control diet. These findings and the experiment itself have been heavily criticised. Not once is it mentioned in the paper a difference in growth or immune system function. Nor did Árpád ever say the it was the process of genetically modifying an organism that makes it harmful. This is simply something Tracey has made up on the spot.
Next Tracey begins to talk about BT cotton being somehow toxic to mammals and glyphosate being incredibly stable and to be honest I lost interest and turned my camera off. These are all things I have heard a thousand times before and I was saving my camera battery for interviewing people later which, unfortunately, never materialised.