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Biotech Critic Denied Tenure at UC Berkeley
(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2004) Ignacio Chapela, PhD., an outspoken critic of the biotechnology industry, taught his last class at University of California, Berkeley last week. Dr. Chapela, who has been a member of the faculty since 1995, was denied tenure at Berkeley, despite "overwhelming support from his own department and from his academic peers," wrote GM Watch founder Jonathan Matthews.

Dr. Chapela, who spoke at the 22nd National Pesticide Forum, made the news a few years ago when his research revealed contamination of native Mexican corn with genetically engineered DNA. Dr. Chapela discovered that pollen had drifted several miles from a field of genetically modified corn in Chiapas into the remote mountains of Oaxaca in Mexico, landing in the last reserve of biodiverse maize in the world. If genes from the rogue pollen actually penetrated the DNA of traditional crops, they could potentially eliminate maize biodiversity forever. In his report, Dr. Chapela cautiously stated that this indeed might have happened. He expressed that sentiment in a peer-reviewed study published by Nature in November 2001.

After an aggressive public relations campaign mounted for Monsanto by the Bivings Group, a global PR firm that began with a vicious e-mail attack mounted by two "scientists" who turned out to be fictitious, Nature editors published a cautious partial retraction of the Chapela report (see Daily News) .

Dr. Chapela had also been a critic of a $25 million research deal between UC Berkeley and the Swiss biotechnology company Novartis (now Syngenta). Supporters of Dr. Chapela believe he is being retaliated against for his criticism of the biotech industry. His last day was marked by hordes of students protesting the administration’s decision to dismiss Dr. Chapela.

For more information on this story, visit the SpinWatch website.

TAKE ACTION: Join GM Watch in showing your solidarity with Dr. Chapela by writing a letter, and email, or calling the administration of UC Berkeley. For more details, go to the action alert on their website.