In Support of Tenure for Ignacio Chapela

Letter to the Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, 17 January 2005

We are an organisation of some 600 British scientists and technologists dedicated to the responsible application of science and technology. One of our activities is to provide support for scientists who have been wrongly treated as a result of pursuing a conscientious approach to their work. Ignacio Chapela is such a scientist.

Dr Chapela, like others who have made scientific discoveries that cast doubt on the wisdom of applying genetic modification to the plants we eat, has been the victim of a campaign originating in the GM industry, which stands to lose billions of dollars in investment and profits if GM falls into disrepute. Since the GM industry is supported by governments (which hope to capitalise on a booming GM industry) and certain vociferous scientists (many of whom enjoy generous funding resulting from the GM work), it has become risky to speak out on this issue.

Dr Chapela's findings that the wild strains of corn in Mexico contain altered genes that can only have come by contamination with GM maize have been corroborated by other scientists. Of course, this discovery caused alarm throughout the world, especially because it was published in such a respected and widely read journal as Nature. It is those with vested interests who have denounced Dr Chapela: others, who have no financial interests in genetic modification and are concerned only with science, support both his work and his candidacy for tenure. He well deserves to be granted tenure. If he fails to obtain it, the University will rightly be denounced as having put its financial concerns above its scientific integrity, and will be yet another example of the erosion of academic ideals.

Yours sincerely,
(Dr) Eva Novotny, Co-ordinator for GM Issues
(Dr) Stuart Parkinson, Director
Scientists for Global Responsibility