ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

4 March 2003


BBC Radio 4's Today Programme 7.45am should have an interesting GM item.

To express your concerns about Sir John Krebs and the FSA - see item 2

1.Krebs must go!
2.Tell the FSA Board what you think about Krebs and the FSA


1.Catching Krebs - Krebs must go!

The current concerns over the Food Standards Agency's attempts to hijack the GM public debate can only be understood against the record of the FSA under Sir John Krebs.

Consider the following:

1. Sir John was known to be highly unsympathetic to concerns about GM foods before he was even appointed, dismissing them as "shrill, often ill-informed and dogma-driven".[1]

2. The complete failure of the FSA under Krebs to re-examine the safety of GM foods, despite the high level of consumer concern. Business as usual was guaranteed by the FSA taking its advice from exactly the same old committee (ACNFP) as MAFF.

3. Instead, quickly conducting a safety enquiry into organic food, which has a high level of consumer confidence. Krebs then made a high profile attack on organic food, in the words of The Times, as "an image-led fad"[2]. Dr Patrick Wall, the chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has described Krebs' views on organic food as "extreme"[3].

4. The FSA's proposed research, supposedly monitoring the health effects of consuming GM foods, which epidemiologists have dismissed as "worthless"[4].

5. Evidence that Krebs is far from alone at the FSA in terms of links to the biotech lobby. The director of the Scottish arm of the FSA is Dr George Paterson -- the former director general of Health Canada's Food Directorate. Paterson has been linked to major food safety scandals in Canada involving both fast track approval for a Monsanto GM crop and the overriding of internal government scientists' health warnings on a GM product.[5]

6. Krebs' role as the OECD's GM conference chair in Edinburgh -- an occasion described by Dr Arpad Pusztai, the only critical food scientist invited, as not so much a conference more: "a propaganda forum for airing the views and promoting the interests of the biotech industry."[6]

7. Krebs' collaboration with a pro-GM food-industry-funded body in their agenda-driven initiative to instruct journalists on how they should report issues like the GM debate - see below.

8. The FSA's opposition to enhanced GM food labelling. The EU would like to enhance GM food labelling so that derivatives such as oils and starches are labelled for the consumer. The Food Standards Agency have spoken out against this.[7]

9. The FSA's key role in producing weak international guidelines on GM food allergenicity testing.[8]

Krebs has not only emasculated the agency but turned it into a public platform for his extreme support for GM and his antipathy to organic food.

Krebs puts the "CON" into consumer protection!


In September 2000, Guidelines on Science and Health Communication for the media were published by the "SIRC / RI Forum". Forum member, Professor Sir John Krebs was quoted as saying, "I am very pleased to have played a role in the SIRC / RI Forum and fully support these sound and sensible guidelines" which should help to "reduce the distortions and sensationalism which so often are associated with stories about what we should or should not eat."

The media Guidelines focus heavily on how to avoid overstating risk and alarming the public. The Guidelines have absolutely nothing to say about any danger of  understating risk, ie the kind of false reassurances that go to the very heart of the BSE affair. The Guidelines similarly have little to say about the dangers stemming from conflicts of interest, arising through industry funding of research etc.

So who exactly is behind this one-sided initiative which Sir John so strongly supports? The prime movers, the SIRC -- the Social Issues Research Centre -- are a food-industry friendly group keen to prevent further media "worries" about issues like GM foods, the benefits of which they say they believe in passionately.

The SIRC are funded in part directly by the food industry (eg Bestfoods, the giant ($8b) US food group) and in part by the SIRC's sister organisation, "MCM Research Ltd", which has identical personnel and which makes the following promises:

"Positive Research ... Do your PR initiatives sometimes look too much like PR initiatives? MCM conducts social/psychological research on the positive aspects of your  business... The results do not read like PR literature, or like market research data... Our reports are credible, interesting and  entertaining in  their own right. This is why they capture the imagination of the media - and your customers." [9]

A director of MCM/SIRC has said that Sir John was aware of the SIRC's food-industry funding when he worked with them.

Miguel Cervantes once wrote, "Tell me what company thou keepst and I'll tell thee what thou art"!

[1] Quoted in Private Eye 10 March 2000
[2] The Times, September 2, 2000, "Organic produce attacked by food agency"
[3] The Irish Times, September 5, 2000, "Public 'entitled' to organic food option"
[5] For more on this see:
[6] Conference report at:
[7] See:
[8]  In a report from Dr Michael Hansen, Consumers Union and Consumers International representative, from the Codex Ad Hoc Working Group on Allergenicity (10-12 September, Vancouver), he comments on the presence of Nick Tomlinson of the UK Food Standards Agency at the meeting and in particular:  ": "The representative from the UK, Nick Tomlinson, played a key role in producing the weak guidelines, along with Canada and Australia supporting the US.  Tomlinson helped to push the notion that the guidelines should be more general in scope (even though the explicit terms of reference called for developing "detailed procedures" for assessing allergenicity) and never objected to abandoning the decision tree."
[10] For more on the SIRC initiative see:

"...if the FSA is to be anything more than a useless and expensive clone of MAFF, it needs to represent informed consumer opinion. Post-BSE, consumers have shown very clearly what kind of food they trust: it's no coincidence, after all, that our supermarkets are now brimming with organic food, while GM food is being forced off the shelves. Yet the FSA seems to be pursuing a curiously  contrary agenda..."  - Joanna Blythman writing in the Guardian , November 4, 2000


2. Tell the FSA Board what you think about Krebs and the FSA

Fed up with the FSA spouting pro-GM propaganda, spending millions on promoting biotechnology and rigging the Public Debate?

Sick of the blatant bias of Sir John Krebs and his refusal to listen to the voice of consumers?

Then send your own polite but clear letters direct to the FSA Board Members (a few of them are on our side!).

Below are the personal contact details and biographical details for most of them.

Robert Rees
Country Elephant Ltd
Norfolk House

Ann Hemingway -  send by email to her secretary at the Welsh FSA -
c/o Welsh FSA
First Floor
Southgate House
Wood Street
CF10 1EW
Telephone (029) 20 678999
Fax (029) 20 678918/9

Michael Gibson
11 Tolbooth Street
IV36 1PH

Michael Walker

Karol Bailey
Holly Tree Farm
Chester Road,

Baroness Howarth of Breckland
House of Lords

Ms Sandra Walbran
Food and Safety Manager
South Lakeland District Council
South Lakeland House
Lowther Street
Kendal Cumbria

Richard AYRE
69 Drayton Gardens Ealing, London W13 OLG
Tel: 020-8998-9845
The Old Dairy, Burgh Hall Farm, Burgh Parva, Melton Constable, Norfolk NR24
Tel: 01263-860-939

Dr Jeya Henry
School Of Biological And Molecular Sciences
Oxford Brookes University
Headington Campus
Gipsy Lane
Oxford OX3 0BP
Tel: + 44 (0) 1865 741111

Vernon Sankey - no details apart from his company interests listed.
Vernon Sankey  - Not so sure about this
non-executive Director
Pearson plc
Shell Mex House
80 Strand

Sir John Krebs, Chair
Food Standards Agency
Aviation House
125 Kingsway
020 7276 8000

Full details of Board Members are at -

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