Independent News and Views September 18, 2000
Features The Trouble With Al - By David Moberg L.A. Confidential - By Bob Burnett From Seattle to South Central - By Juan Gonzalez A Field Day for the Heat - By Jeffrey St. Clair Throwing Away the Key - By Dave Lindorff Blinded with Science - By Karen Charman
News Prague Fall - By Nick Rosen The Highest Price - By Anthony Arnove - By Dave Lindorff Appall-o-Meter - By David Futrelle
Views Editorial - By Salim Muwakkil Dialogue: Candidate Nader - By Doug Ireland and Joel Bleifuss A Terry LaBan Cartoon - By Terry LaBan
Culture Dancing in the Suites - By J.W. Mason Things Fall Apart - By Hillary Frey Homage to Gorazde - By Daniel F. Raeburn
Blinded With Science - By Karen Charman

  The biotech industry insists it has science on its side in the debate over the environmental safety of genetically engineered crops. But its reaction to new scientific discoveries tends to vary depending on whether the research helps or hinders its cause.

   A case in point is the continuing controversy over corn genetically modified to produce its own insecticide. In June, researchers from the University of Illinois published a field study showing that pollen from the modified corn did not harm black swallowtail butterflies. The biotech industry has been heavily promoting the results.

  The swallowtail study is the first published field trial since May 1999, when the prestigious scientific journal Nature reported the results of a Cornell University laboratory experiment in which altered corn pollen killed monarch butterfly larvae. The monarch study generated a flurry of headlines - such as "Butterflies are Victims of Genetic Engineering" and "Surprise Attack of Alien Corn" - and helped spark the growing public concern about genetically engineered food.

  When the monarch story broke, most Americans had been unknowingly eating genetically modified foods for about five years. A raucous public debate in Europe had virtually shut the industry out of that market, and consumer resistance was beginning to spread to other countries. Fearing a consumer backlash here, the biotech industry has been engaged in damage control on the issue ever since.

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