June 6, 2016
A study published in 2004 received an award from the British Food Journal (BFJ) as the “most outstanding paper” of the year has been exposed as a total fraud. Authored by biotech hack Shane Morris, the study, entitled Agronomic and consumer considerations for Bt and conventional sweet-corn, used deceptive and undisclosed methods to sway buyers toward genetically-modified (GM) sweet corn seeds, only to later claim that consumers voluntarily chose the “frankenseeds” over the natural ones.
Known today as the “wormy corn” scandal, the original publishing of the paper back in 2003 was met with outrage after it was determined that Morris, who at the time was employed by the government agency Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, intentionally manipulated the views of his participants to achieve a predetermined study outcome. According to the public investigations group Powerbase, Morris and his co-authors posted whiteboard signage above natural sweet corn seed bins at a farm store that swayed farmers toward the GMO seeds.
Fraudulent signs manipulated study participants to choose GMO seeds
The question “Would you eat wormy sweet corn?” was positioned directly above the non-GMO seed bin, followed by a detailed listing of all the pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers that would need to be applied to this non-GMO seed. These warnings, which were not disclosed in the study, unfairly pointed shoppers toward the “quality” GMO seed been where over 50 percent of participants ended up pulling their seed.
Based on this fraud, Morris and his team were able to make the claim that GMO corn seed is preferred by a majority of farmers, a spurious conclusion that has ever since been a self-fulfilling prophecy within the general farming community. It wasn’t until Toronto Star reporter Stuart Laidlaw uncovered the use of the signs that this failed study was finally exposed as industry propaganda.
“The case is a flagrant fraud,” stated Dr. Richard Jennings, a lecturer on scientific practice at Cambridge University. “It was a sin of omission by failing to divulge information which quite clearly should have been disclosed.”
40 respected scientists, politicians, and policy experts call for fraudulent study to be retracted
When news of the fraudulent study went public, many people demanded that it be immediately retracted. New Scientist ran a full expose in 2006 demanding that BFJ take responsibility for failing the scientific community by publishing the study. The Canadian government even tried to distance itself from Morris, claiming that he wasn’t their employee at the time the study was conducted.
When this failed to spark action at BFJ, 40 scientists, including leading experts in the fields of science policy and research ethics, as well as two members of Parliament, issued an open letter in 2008 to the editor and editorial board of the journal calling for the study’s retraction. These experts hailed from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Norway, France, Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, and Japan.
This letter, which openly called the paper a “disgraceful incident,” coincided with a fruitless attempt by Morris to sue his exposers for alleged libel. Morris attempted at the time to shut down both GMWatch and GM-Free Ireland for criticizing his immoral actions. He also tried to sue Tim Lambert, a computer scientist from the University of New South Wales, who was the first to prove the legitimacy of the deceptive signage.
“Shane Morris must be fairly desperate to create such melodramatic lies seven years after the fact,” stated Michael Khoo, a Greenpeace campaigner who Morris had irrationally accused of tampering with the whiteboard signs during the course of the study. “If any of these things had actually happened, wouldn’t he have been the first to call the police or tell the press?”