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Response by a reader to a "Nature" commentary 'GM crops: Battlefield' posted earlier:

Posted by: Piero Morandini,  Dept. of Biology, University of Milan (Italy)

I am one of the people who published a critical commentary of the Rosi-Marshall paper (see ref. 9 obove). Here are my further comments about the piece above.

i. The main reason for the strong criticism of papers like Rosi-Marshall is exactly about bad science with major policy implications. If I publish a paper about sex determination in asparagus that has no interest beyond the scientific circles, then it does not damage anybody beyond these circles if it is wrong and the damage is mild. On the contrary, when a paper claiming problems with transgenic plants is published, it may be used by people opposed ideologically to ag-biotech.

We have seen this in the past with Losey, Chapela and others. These papers have been used or are used to prevent introduction of the technology in several European countries and, as a consequence, in several other countries in the third world. Even if the content of the papers is later dismissed as irrelevant or wrong, the claims are still propagated for years. Papers that could have an influence on policy and regulation for years must be screened by editors and referees with the utmost care first and then by the scientific community at large once they have been published.

The scientific community has the moral obligation of looking more carefully into matters which could impact many more people, both positively or negatively.

ii. A truly constructive criticism in science must have one aim: seek the truth.
The role of peers (referees and later colleagues who read the paper) is to help authors to do this. It is a matter of humility to submit your own research results to the scientific world. If you can't stand this sort of criticism, you are loving your results more than the truth. Sometimes the wording of the criticism may be more or less pleasing (whoever has received referees comments on a manuscript knows it very well). Things lived with passion bring often excesses in feelings. But what matters more is the end result.

iii. These papers do not alert us to possible reasons to look into this more carefully. A research badly designs, for instance with no proper controls or with unreasonable doses completely out of real life range or situation is simply irrelevant and does not advance our understanding and may even be misleading further research. A wonderful example of this is the data accumulated on synthetic substances with test for carcinogens made at high dose in the 70s-80s. They turned out to be deadly wrong and said nothing about the effect at the real doses we are exposed to. Rather than alert about possible reasons to look more into this, they concealed the reality for many years because people did not do the proper control with natural substances (which had the same frequency, 60%, of carcinogens as synthetic substances).

Bad science caused bad regulation and unnecessary spending as well as useless research. Try interview Bruce Ames (professor of Biochemistry at Berkeley) on this or read some of his pieces:

or a video:

Looking at a transgenic corn causing a reduction on non target organisms without comparing the effect of a conventional corn treated with insecti cides is a non real world situation. In Italy this year we are experiencing a strong outbreak of root corn borer. They are treating with insecticides but nobody measures the effect on biodiversity.

iv. I see much more depressing for scientists spending years on developing a new product to see thir research fields destroyed or their products not brought to the market because of insane regulatory burden.
These regulations, especially in the EU, are fuelled by bad science and ideological opposition.
Golden rice is a prime example of unjustifiable delay. I know of several other products with real benefits which never made it to the market