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Support Ignacio Chapela who Told the Truth About Genetic Engineering

Please support UC Berkeley Professor Ignacio Chapela who has stood by his principles, criticized the undue influence Novartis gained over university research due to their $25 million donation, discovered the contamination of Mexican corn with Genetically Engineered corn from the u.s. and been denied tenure for his outspokeness.
Support Needed for Embattled Professor Ignacio Chapela!

Ignacio Chapela the University of California Berkeley professor who discovered the massive contamination of the native landraces of corn in Mexico just had his last day of teaching due to his tenure being denied by the chancellor of UC Berkeley.

Chapela deserves his tenure and has had massive support from teachers, students, the tenure board and concerned people the world over.

He criticized the $25 million dollar deal between UC Berkeley and Novartis for its corporate influence and published his findings of Maize contamination in the prestigious journal Nature. He has been under attack ever since.

Please send a letter of support to the Chancellor of UC Berkeley demanding he receive his long denied tenure status.
Support Ignacio Chapela who Told the Truth About GM

Urgent request from GMWatch www.GMWatch.org

Dear Friends

We are contacting you because you have previously supported GM Watch's e-mail campaigns on important issues like the threatened go-ahead for GM crops in Thailand. Your support helped get the Thai Prime Minister to change his mind.

Some of you may already have seen that we are currently running a campaign in support of Dr Ignacio Chapela who has effectively been sacked by University of California, Berkeley in the teeth of opposition from his Dept and other of his academic peers within and beyond the University of California.

Dr Chapela's only crime has been to publicly criticise the big corporate tie-up between UC Berkeley and biotech giant Novartis and to have published research on the GM contamination of Mexican maize.

Below is a media report on Last Thursday's rally at Berkeley in support of Ignacio Chapela and we have also excerpted some of the powerful quotes from speeches by his academic supporters.

Please add your voice to the protests being made to Berkeley's Chancellor. Just click this link:

It'll only take a minute.

Many thanks for your support and if you have already taken action on this issue we apologise for any cross posting. -

- - QUOTES from the Berkeley rally:

The Budget Committee knows the chancellor wants to get his
hands on that corporate loot. . . Chapela is exactly the
kind of person we need around here. He has wisdom, and above
all he has courage and integrity. - Joe Nielands, emeritus
professor of biochemistry, who came to UC Berkeley in 1952

"If we lose Ignacio, diversity in the biological sciences
will decrease by 50 percent. Isn't it a coincidence that
Ignacio and I have wound up on the wrong side of the same
corporation that was funding research here at the
university?" - Professor Tyrone Hayes of the Department of
Integrative Biology

"This case sends a clear message that faculty who challenge
the dominant paradigm are not welcome, especially if they
don't accept corporate funding." - Ethnic Studies Professor
Carlos Munoz

"The university is egregiously violating its own rules. I
hope this struggle continues." - Barbara Epstein, professor
of history at UC Santa Cruz

"[the denial of tenure is] unethical and unprecedented. I
would urge the chancellor to look at the process and grant
tenure, Right here. Today. Now." - Carolyn Merchant,
professor of environmental history, philosophy, and ethics

"I have come to the conclusion that Aristotle could not have
made tenure here. Honesty is not something that's
appreciated at this campus." - Professor Andrew Gutierrez

"[the Chancellor] said, 'Is there something so wrong that it
would cause you to leave?' Ignacio and I replied, 'If there
was something so wrong, the last thing we would do is leave.
We would stay and fight'." - Jennifer Miller, an assistant
professor in the English Department

"this is a public university. We cannot allow this
hypocrisy... The university does not belong to the
university or to the corporations. It belongs to us."
- Miguel Altieri, a professor of insect biology

Express your support for Ignacio:

Ousted Professor Holds Final Class
By RICHARD BRENNEMAN Berkeley Daily Planet December 10, 2004

It began inside a classroom, where a world-renowned professor was holding his last session with students, barring a decision from UC Berkeley's new chancellor.

Then it moved outside as ever-growing numbers of students, academics and journalists marshaled for a march on California Hall.

It climaxed in a chant outside California Hall, a cascading chorus of protest aimed at Chancellor Robert Birgeneau: "Justice Now! Justice Now! Justice Now! Justice Now!"

For Ignacio Chapela, a member of the Cal's department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management faculty since 1995, the day marked the end of the latest chapter of his battles for academic freedom and his challenges to an increasingly corporatized academic culture.

An overflowing crowd of students, faculty, and supporters crammed into his last class. As the 8:30 a.m. class drew to a close, Chapella thanked the crowd and vowed to "keep raising hell." After a standing ovation, the group led a
march to the chancellor's office in California Hall. There they protested Chapella's dismissal and called on the university to grant him tenure.

Chapela's once-promising career at Berkeley foundered on two critical issues.

When Swiss biotech giant Novartis (now renamed Syngenta) struck a five-year $25 million deal with the College of Natural Resources' Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, Chapela was quick to criticize, citing the obvious potential of conflicts of interest and corporate control of research.

His frankness did nothing to endear him to college Dean Gordon Rausser, one of the architects of the agreement.

But the crowning blow followed from a discovery made by Chapela and one of his graduate students, David Quist, one of the founders of Students for Responsible Research.

A native of Mexico, Chapela has remained deeply involved with his homeland, conducting research and helping indigenous people work toward economic self-sufficiency.

Quist and Chapela discovered strands of genetically modified DNA in the genome of native strands of corn cultivated in the heart of the region where maize was first domesticated.

Chapela and Quist submitted their findings to Nature, the British scientific journal which remains the world's preeminent scientific publication. Their publication in
November 2001 ignited a firestorm.

Their discovery wasn't the first instance of artificial genetic intrusion. Reports have surfaced of strands of DNA conferring resistance to the pesticide Roundup finding their way into the weeds the herbicide was designed to kill.

But the Chapela/Quist discovery was especially troubling to the agribusiness giants whose patented strains of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are being spreadl throughout the world and generating huge profits.

The implicit threat their research raised was of homogenized crops, of a reduction of genetic diversity that could render crops far more vulnerable because diverse varieties with a wide range of resistances would vanish into a giant genomic blender.

The attack was instant and fierce. A British web site posted scathing critiques from non-existent scientists who turned out to be creations of a corporate advertising and Nature received letters, one from a UC Berkeley colleague of Chapela, who questioned the scientists' methodology.

In the end, Nature published a partial retraction - the first in the publication's history - that advised readers to make their own interpretations of the findings.

Other research has since verified their findings, but the damage was already done.

Chapela was already up for tenure when the Nature furor erupted, but the flap didn't prevent department members from voting 32 to 1 in favor of tenure, followed by tenure recommendations from both his department chair and the dean
of the College of Natural Resources.

On Oct. 3, a five-member Campus Ad Hoc Committee voted unanimously in favor of tenure.

The first blow came on June 5, 2003, when the university's budget committee made a preliminary vote against tenure.

Then, on Nov. 12, the vice provost asked the ad hoc panel chair to reevaluate tenure in light of new critical letter, prompting the resignation of the chair.

After another negative vote from the budget committee, Chancellor Robert Berdahl denied tenure on Nov. 20, 2003, despite repeated tenure recommendations from the chair and dean.

Chapela's supporters are hoping for a more receptive hearing from new Chancellor Birgeneau, an academic with a history of involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Professors, journalists and supporters joined the regular student contingent for Thursday's final class, an undergraduate course in environmental biology. They filled the seats, lined the walls and sat on the floor.

The discussion was wide ranging - "part of the class is to show how environmental biology is connected to everything else" -and he invited all those in attendance, students and others, to comment on a current event and show its connection to environmental biology.

During the class volunteers passed out cut sections of ribbons, red and earthy green, and audience members tied them to their forearms, reminiscent of two forms of protein on which so much of life depends, hemoglobin and chlorophyll.

As class drew down to the end, Chapela declared, "I will keep raising hell in different forms."

After a standing ovation, one after another, professors rose to pay tribute to their colleague.

"Today is also my last class," Professor Andrew Gutierrez told the crowd. Unlike Chapela, Gutierrez is retiring.

"I have come to the conclusion that Aristotle could not have made tenure here," he said. "Honesty is not something that's appreciated at this campus. The Mario Savio Steps and the Free Speech Cafe are two monuments to hypocrisy."

Miguel Altieri, a professor of insect biology, urged the audience of "the need to remember that this is a public university. We cannot allow this hypocrisy."

Two weeks ago, Altieri said, he had written the new chancellor, "saying this was your chance. I didn't even get a reply. The university does not belong to the university or to the corporations. It belongs to us.".



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Tenure--Argh! 15.Dec.2004 13:30

prof/daughter of prof

I can't resist commenting. I groaned to myself when I hear his tenure had been denies. I often think about activists and the price they pay, and worry about folks who may have gotten themselves into more trouble than they anticipated. Chapela has made a tremendous sacrifice by telling the truth.

Few people realize the complications of being a graduate student--until they run into trouble and check with a lawyer. Graduate degrees are "discretionary," meaning they can be denied at any time for any reason, or for no reason. There are no rules.

Tenure is a similar system. My father once voted against a chemist receiving tenure because he had been seen in the Student Union passing out political literature, and my father deemed it undignified. I was dismayed as a child to learn that a school either pledges to keep a faculty member for life or s/he is fired. There is no in-between.

The graduate and tenure system keep people in check very effectively. The investment in a graduate degree that is jobworthy, the decades of constant work, and the slim chances of getting a job all work make the career especially difficult to risk. And this system works to keep truly independent thinkers permanently locked out of the very place where they are most needed.

There is, however, one major benefit of tenure. If someone can work the system for the necessary 20 years, then that individual has tremendous political freedom.

Tremendous public embarrassement might cause the university to reverse its decision. Certainly, unless he can find a sympathetic institution, his career is in trouble.

He is truly a courageous person that any institution should be proud to employ.