Following the documentary, "Scientists Under Attack: Genetic Engineering in the Magnetic Field of Money," UC Berkeley Professor, Dr. Ignacio Chapela," will tell his story and speak about the suppression of scientific inquiry, specifically with respect to genetically engineered food.
The documentary, “Scientists Under Attack,” will be shown at Napa Valley College in the Community Room next to McCarthy Library on Tuesday October 9th at 7:00 PM. The film is about scientists whose research raised concerns about genetically engineered food and, as a result, were criticized, denied tenure, fired, and/or silenced. The event is free, and the normal parking fee will be waived. Donations to the “Yes” on Proposition 37 campaign to label genetically engineered food in California will be accepted. Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at the Universtiy of California, Berkeley, is featured in the film and will answer questions afterward.
In 2001, Dr. Chapela, along with his graduate student, David Quist, conducted research which revealed that genetically engineered (GE) corn was growing in Mexico, despite the country’s moratorium on the planting of GE corn that had been in place since 1998. The Mexican government did its own independent research, confirming their discovery, which it published in press releases. Chapela and Quist’s findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature. However, controversy that Dr. Chapela has described as a “very well concerted, coordinated and paid for campaign to discredit the very simple statement that we made,” led to an editor’s note in April 2002, stating that there was insufficient evidence to justify the original publication. (Scientists from Mexico, the United States, and the Netherlands eventually replicated Dr. Chapela’s findings, and their study was published in the February 2009 issue of Molecular Ecology.)
Dr. Chapela has also been an outspoken critic of the University’s corporate ties, initially with Novartis and more recently with British Petroleum. He criticized an agreement in which the department of Plant and Microbial Biology and its faculty at UC Berkeley took money from Novartis in exchange for some publication oversight and trade secrecy. Dr. Chapela was originally denied tenure in 2003, which his supporters believe was due to his opposition to the UC Berkeley-Novartis deal. However, due to public outcry and protest, and after Dr. Chapela filed a lawsuit with the Universtiy, he was awarded tenure in 2005.
“As people seek out information to make healthy choices, it’s concerning that not only are the large majority of scientists actually working for private industry, but even those working in our public universities often have conflicts of interest if their research is being funded and scrutinized by a private corporation,” states Erica Martenson, local Coordinator for the “Yes” on Proposition 37 campaign to label genetically engineered food in California. “In the case of genetically engineered food, not only is it difficult for scientists to get access to GE seeds to do independent research due to intellectual property rights and user agreements forbidding GE seeds from being used in that way, but there also isn’t a lot of public funding for scientists to ask the hard questions, and design and implement studies that might actually reveal problems with GE food; and, when scientists do, they are immediately attacked by powerful interests that are threatened by their results.”
Despite these barriers to research and in the midst of a battle over GE food labeling in California, the results of the first long-term animal feeding trial of GE food, conducted by microbiologist Gilles-Eric Seralini, were published last month in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. His peer-reviewed study linked GE corn to kidney and liver toxicity and premature death in rats, as well as large tumors on their mammary glands-- the equivalent of breast cancer in humans. The research design and results were immediately called into question.
Napa Valley College Campus Greens are hosting the event, which has been co-sponsored by the Napa County Green Party,
Preserving the Integrity of Napa's Agriculture (P.I.N.A.), Carolyn Parr Nature Center, Slow Food Napa Valley, Napa-Solano Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Napa County Democratic Party.
For more information on Proposition 37, please see the campaign’s official website at http://www.carighttoknow.org/