''Safety'' Claim Under Investigation By ASA
GE Lobby group's ''Safety'' claim under investigation by Advertising Standards Authority
The Life Sciences Network has broken its silence and gone public about an investigation into complaints about its pre-election pro-GE advertising campaign. Responding to a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority to investigate a formal complaint about misleading claims, the industry lobby group has repeated some of the statements now under investigation.
The person raising the concerns with the ASA is disappointed by the Life Sciences Network move as she has no right of reply because of a confidentiality agreement not to release the decision to the media. Responding to the LSN statement she said " I am concerned by the Life Sciences Industry's emotional attacks labeling concerned doctors, ecologists, scientists and the public as anti GE fanatics and Eco Taleban. Their tactics stifles debate and actively misleads readers."
The LSN is defending two complaints laid against them: Firstly that there is no evidence for their claim that GE potato research was destroyed by "anti GE fanatics", and secondly that their claim there are no substantiated health issues involving the consumption of GE products is untrue.
"In the first instance the Industry has jumped to conclusions that are not backed by facts. Their claims could even be libelous as there is no evidence that any of the GE-Free Groups were involved in the sabotage," said Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ In food and environment. "It is the Life Science lobby's attempt to label all concerned groups as extremist, that is so wrong."
The responsible and ethical use of gene technology in laboratory work has been considered a safe way to contain GE and test for hazards. It is highly unlikely that any person involved in the public-interest groups like 'GE-Free NZ in food and environment' would be involved in such action. The police have said that there are no leads to follow, yet the Life Sciences Network continues to cast aspersions with no evidence to back them up.
"The claims are no more based on evidence than a claim that the attack was an " inside job", or that the potatoes were dying so the experiment was intentionally destroyed by those connected to the project", said Mr Carapiet.
In the second instance the LSN seem to be deliberately ignoring facts: the thousands of people harmed by GE L-tryptophan are a stark reminder that not all approved GE products have proved safe. Pretences that the LSN claim was referring to 'authorised and regulated crops" are also flawed. The spread of GM Starlink corn into the human food chain, despite it being banned a potential human-allergen also shows that even "approved" GE crops can be a threat to food safety.
Contact Jon Carapiet - 09 815 3370
Deaths and Near-Deaths
Recorded Deaths from GM In 1989, dozens of Americans died and several thousands were afflicted and impaired by a genetically altered version of the food supplement - L-tryptophan. A settlement of $2 billion dollars was paid by Showa Denko, Japan's third largest chemical company. (Mayeno and Gleich, 1994). Near-deaths from Allergic Reactions In 1996, Brazil nut genes were spliced into soybeans by a company called Pioneer Hi-Bred. Some individuals, however, are so allergic to this nut, they go into apoplectic shock (similar to a severe bee sting reaction) which can cause death. Animal tests confirmed the peril and fortunately the product was removed from the market before any fatalities occurred. "The next case could be less than ideal and the public less fortunate," writes Marion Nestle, head of the Nutrition Department of NYU in an editorial to the New England Journal of Medicine. About 25% of Americans have adverse reactions to foods. 8% of children and 2% of adults have food allergies as tested by blood immunoglobins.
APPENDIX- THE LIFE SCIENCES STATEMENT ( www.lifesciencesnetwork.com)
A letter has been received by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board, taking exception to the Life Sciences Network pro-GE advertisement, which appeared in newspapers nationwide on July 24 2002.
It has been claimed that the LSN advertisement made two inaccurate allegations. Firstly that scientist Dr Gilpin's work was destroyed by anti GE fanatics, and secondly that there are no substantiated health issues involving the consumption of GE products.
In its letter of reply, LSN states that it does not accept the advertisement was misleading or likely to mislead or deceive.
Nor does LSN agree that the advertisement confused opinion with fact in either of the two particulars alleged. It was not in breach of either Rule 2 or Rule 11 of the Advertising Code of Ethics.
The complainant argued that the Life Sciences Network should not describe the people who destroyed Dr Gilpin's crop as "anti GE saboteurs".
However, at the time, the Green Party tacitly acknowledged that anti GE protesters were involved.
The police agreed that the sabotage was probably the work of a far left environmental group, the Wild Greens. The Wild Greens had previously vowed to disrupt new work involving genetic modifications taking place at science related research centers such as Crop and Food Research.
The nature of the attacks clearly indicated that the motive was to interfere with GM research. Only GM plants were attacked. Nothing was stolen.
LSN does not, therefore, agree with the complainant that there was no evidence to show that the attack was to do with the anti GM faction. Although it was not clear exactly which anti GE protesters were involved in the attack, all the evidence points to the motive for the attack being anti GE.
It is also alleged that the advertisement incorrectly claims that there have been no substantiated health problems with the consumption of GE products. It is argued that, in fact, there have been several health problems caused by the use of GE.
The inference is, presumably, that the LSN is therefore in breach of Rule 2 of the Advertising Code of Ethics. Rule 2 sets out that advertisements should not contain any statement that misleads the consumer.
The complaint relates to a portion of a quote from Dr Gilpin included in the advertisement:
"In the last year alone, GE crops were grown on 130 million acres with the number of farmers choosing to grow GE crops increasing rapidly to 5.5 million. In the last 20 years, no health issue involving the consumption of GE products has ever been substantiated, even though an incredible amount of effort has gone into looking for potential problems. Sure, you have to take every precaution as you would with any research project. Here in New Zealand we have to meet the strictest standards in the world so fully approved testing gives us the safety factor."
LSN contends that the quote is about the release of tested, regulated GM crops. It is clear from the context of the advertisement that it does not relate to the possibility of harm in clinical trials of experimental medicines. There is no evidence that GM crops have adversely affected health.
The complainant also points to the fact that the trials of MBP, Phase II rAAT, and EPREX were all stopped because there were concerns that the medicines were harmful to patients.
In response, LSN says stopping such trials is a way of ensuring that the technology is safe.
The trials are a part of the safety measures surrounding the use of GE. It seems strange to allege that the regulated use of GE is unsafe on the grounds that trials in which harmful effects have developed have been called off. Surely these examples in fact support the contention that the regulated use of GE is safe. Citing examples of stopped trials to demonstrate that GE is unsafe is to misunderstand the process by which the technology's safety is ensured.
In conclusion, LSN says the complaints about its advertisement are unfounded. Both of the statements, for which concern is expressed, are truthful. They do not infringe against either Rule 2 or Rule 11 of the Advertising Code of Ethics.