GM Free Cymru


In GM-Free Cymru we pride ourselves on our dense network of twittering moles, who occasionally pass on something of interest. A source which can normally be counted on as utterly reliable informs us that the following letter has been posted to the Agony Aunt of the Guardian newspaper. We can only assume that it is authentic. If Mr Stein receives a reply, we will try to obtain it for the edification of readers.

To Mariella Frostrup Guardian Agony Aunt

3rd October 2012

Dear Mariella

Science Manipulation Centre

You seem like a nice Scandinavian lady, and I gather that you provide sound advice to those facing little personal difficulties. I do hope that you can help me.

I am a retired GM scientist who has worked long and hard for many years with not much reward. Now I have had a brilliant idea which will ensure that I am remembered by posterity, and which may also go some way towards supplementing my meagre pension. I wish to set up a new registered charity with the name "Science Manipulation Centre". (Spelling the word "centre" the English way makes it sound more solid and trustworthy, as I am sure you will agree.) In preparing for my new enterprise, I have already lined up a good number of old lags who are prepared to be called "experts" and who can be counted on to say whatever I want them to say, in exchange for a few quid, or for a free lunch now and then. Of course, I need lots of trustees, advisors, patrons, sponsors, supporters and so forth who would like me to beaver away on their behalf, and from my initial enquiries I find that there are many corporations, research establishments, universities, government departments, learned institutions and societies who would be only too pleased for me to undertake a little judicious science manipulation now and then, in exchange for modest financial support for my charity. This is indeed the perfect win/win scenario!

The services which I would provide for my supporters and sponsors would include the burying of any research that might harm their interests or their share prices, the vilification of any scientists who might come up with anything inconvenient or uncomfortable, and placing a little judicious pressure on any journal editor who might be tempted to publish anything submitted by a scientist with any "campaigning" or "green" tendencies. As I am sure you will agree, such scientists do have an unfortunate tendency to be unbalanced and emotional, and time has shown that they cannot be trusted to follow the scientific consensus, much to the distress of government ministers and our captains of industry.

(Of course, I would not repeat the contents of the above paragraph in the public forum, although you will understand that in my messages to potential sponsors and funders, I do try to lay out the benefits that might flow from involvement in my little charity, and to be as honest as possible in these matters. I know that I can count on your discretion.)

Image is everything, and so the Science Manipulation Centre will of course place in the public domain assorted noble objectives with words such as "independent", "authoritative", and "science-based" scattered about liberally. Our stated raison d'etre would be to provide reliable analysis and summaries of scientific stories to the media, who are (just between you and me) incapable of understanding science without a little help, and who can be counted on to regurgitate whatever old nonsense is fed to them.

A few days ago, with all my plans carefully laid, I wrote to the Charity Commission in order to register the Science Manipulation Centre with charitable status. I assumed it would be a foregone conclusion. But you can perhaps imagine my very deep distress when I received a message back from them, informing me that somebody has beaten me to it, and that the Science Manipulation Centre is already up and running, and hard at work! I am seriously pissed off. What do you advise me to do next?

In sincerity

Dr Franklin Stein Apple Blossom Cottage Greenacres Nether Wallop.