Steve Dube's WalesonLine Blog
INTERVIEW WITH JUDY CARMAN
Judy Carman, Ph.D. is director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, Inc., a non-profit research institute based in Australia focusing on the safety of genetically modified food. She earned a doctorate degree in medicine from the University of Adelaide in the areas of metabolic regulation, nutritional biochemistry, and cancer. She has investigated outbreaks of disease for an Australian state government. Not someone known for rushing into prejudice, one assumes.
Dr Carman says very little safety testing is done on genetically modified foods, and when it is done, it is done in a minimal way by the biotechnology companies. Dr. Carman says that more extensive testing of GM foods is needed to ensure they are safe.
"We are conducting one the very few long-term, independent animal feeding studies with GM foods. To date, most of these types of studies have been done by biotechnology companies or scientists associated with biotechnology companies. Of the few independent studies being done, a study by the Austrian government recently made public found reduced fertility in mice fed GM corn. Another recent study done in Italy showed immune system problems in mice fed GM corn. The studies done by biotechnology companies tend to show no health problems associated with eating GM food. The independent studies are finding adverse effects."
Ain't that strange. The biotech companies find no problems but the independent studies do. How can that be?
Dr Carman: "It is disturbing that the study showed a gradually worsening effect on mice that ate the GM corn. I am worried that something similar is happening in humans. If it is, it could take many years for problems to become apparent, and by then it could be too late to do anything about it."
So let's have more independent research. Why isn't it happening?
Dr Carman: "First, it is very hard to get GM seed to conduct the research. In order to buy GM seed, you have to go to a licensed seed dealer, and sign a technology licensing agreement, which states that you won't do any research on the seed, which includes agronomic, health, and environmental research. Also, scientists who try to research health impacts of GM food get harassed and intimidated by people with vested interests in GM technology. I've had 10 years of abuse from such people who've defamed me, driven me out of a university, and tried to get me fired from jobs. With that kind of intimidation, scientists often decide not to do any research. Vested interests have been trying to find out about research I'm doing. They filed a freedom of information request with the Western Australian government to find out. The government denied their request. It could have ended up in court. My research protocol could have been stolen."
Any other problems?
Dr Carman: "If you want to do medical research, you have to go to an organization that funds such research. In order to get funding you need to have a proven track record in that area of research. However, in a new area of research such as GM food safety, no one has a track record, so it is difficult to get the funding. It's a Catch-22. We are thankful that the Western Australian government gave us funding. The research protocol was sent to 15 scientists worldwide for review and then approved by a steering committee. I wanted people to know that I was doing a thorough job with this research."
A question: If your research finds negative health impacts caused by GM foods, Dr Carman, are you prepared to deal with a negative onslaught from biotech companies?
Dr Carman: "Yes, I understand that will happen. I've been attacked many times. GM food advocates want to make people who do this type of work frightened of losing their jobs to make them stop working on the issue. They can't get me fired now. I work within my own organization, the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, which I established along with others who are committed to finding out if GM foods are safe to eat. The behaviour of GM food advocates makes me ask, "What are they frightened of?" If they believe GM foods are safe, they would be confident that I would not find any problems. Instead they are paranoid. What do they know that I don't know? What are they trying to hide? It makes me more curious and determined to find out."
These are extracts from an interview by Ken Roseboro for the Organic Growers Association magazine, Dec08/Jan09.