Press Notice from GM-Free Cymru 4th June 2010
The Dialogue (1), announced in November 2009, had the following stated aim: "To help ensure that future government and non-governmental policy towards the availability and production of food which involves the use of genetic modification is informed by a thorough understanding of the public’s principal concerns and priorities in respect of such food." The last Labour Government allocated more than half a million pounds to the project, and promoted it as a genuine dialogue about GM -- but it was clear from the beginning that the "dialogue" would be nothing more than an "educational exercise" designed to convince a sceptical public about the supposed merits of GM, in order to bring people more closely into line with Government policy (2). So it was greeted with derision by NGOs and consumer groups, who predicted that it would simply turn into a GM propaganda exercise (3). That is exactly what has happened.
Before the Steering Group started work, FSA commissioned the National Centre for Social Research to undertake (purportedly) a study of public attitudes to GM crops and food -- but NCSR spoke to just 30 selected persons, and the study was blatantly twisted so that it became a training exercise for FSA and the Government, with a view to determining the best methods of "changing attitudes and opinions." At the time, GM-Free Cymru said: "This ranks high on the scale of unethical behaviour, and demonstrates that this was not intended to be an impartial study, but a component of a sophisticated GM promotional campaign. We have to conclude that the FSA has simply used this piece of research as a means of honing its "educational skills" -- with a view to moving the opinions of members of the British public towards either greater confusion as to the real issues in the GM debate, or a greater sense of complacency that "all is well" and that we are all being well looked after." (3)
After just six months, two members of the Steering Group have handed in their resignations (4). In her resignation letter, Dr Helen Wallace protested about FSA's links with the GM industry and demonstrated that some of the contractors being considered to run the project were already working for a major biotechnology company in order to "position the company as a positive force". She explained: "It has now become clear to me that the process that the FSA has in mind is nothing more than a PR exercise on behalf of the GM industry. In my view, this would be a significant waste of taxpayers' money. A process that was barely credible has become a farce. Taxpayers' money should not be wasted on a PR exercise for the GM industry." In his resignation letter (5), Prof Brian Wynne (vice chairman of the Steering Group) also protested at the use of taxpayers' money to promote "propaganda" in favour of genetically modified food. He stated that the public consultation was being "rigged" in favour of GM technology and had become "an arm of propaganda to try to push the opinion of the British public in the right direction". He also complained bitterly about the attitude of Lord Rooker, the Chairman of FSA, who slavishly followed the Labour Government line that the public is anti-science, and that it needs to be educated into seeing the merits of Government / FSA policy.
In the context of considerable media coverage and a storm of protest from NGOs, it is now obvious that the "Public Dialogue" has become both a farce and a shambles. Speaking for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "We are not at all surprised that the Steering Group has flown apart in this way. It was clear from the beginning that it would not be independent, and that it would be mercilessly manipulated by a very small group of pro-GM officials within FSA who make the UK's GM policy and who promote the commercial interests of the GM industry, regardless of what GM crops and foods might be doing for the health of the nation. These officials also believe that they are uniquely in possession of the "scientific truth" concerning GMOs -- and that almost religious conviction makes them very dangerous, especially when they are giving advice to gullible politicians. Their "truth" is based very largely on selective, biased and corrupt scientific research conducted by the GM industry itself -- they WANT to believe it, whereas thousands of other perfectly competent scientists treat it with scepticism and even contempt.
"If the new Government wants to win the respect of the public and to distance itself from the discredited GM policy of the Labour Government, the first thing it needs to do is ditch this ridiculous "public dialogue." If nothing else in these hard times, that will save the taxpayer at least half a million pounds."
Contact: Dr Brian John, GM-Free Cymru Tel 01239-820470
(1) http://www.food.gov.uk/gmfoods/gm/gmdialogue/ The Use of Genetic Modification – A Public Dialogue Geoff Lean: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthcomment/geoffrey-lean/6563658/Unlocking-the-English-countryside.html Will our views on GM food be 'modified’? Not another GM debate The Daily Telegraph, 17 November 2009 http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11683:not-another-gm-debate Text from http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/board/fsa091103.pdf accessed via: http://www.food.gov.uk/aboutus/ourboard/boardmeetings/boardmeetings2009/091110/agenda091110 (2) FSA GM Dialogue Must Put Citizens First New Survey raises concerns about political nature of latest research and new public “dialogue” -- 25 Nov 2009
(3) FSA distorts research and moves into Pro-GM "Education"
Press Notice 27 November 2009 from GM-Free Cymru
(4) Resignation of Dr Helen Wallace
FSA accused of running PR exercise for GM industry
http://bit.ly/cvuRYe Soil Association letter to FSA chief
(5) Resignation of Prof Brian Wynne
Academic resigns from FSA group over GM
Pro-GM Bias in FSA 'Dialogue' Contractors: Heads should roll