ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
 
Date:  7 December 2000

OCTOBER'S  PANTS-ON-FIRE

Après Florida and Uncle Sam's big anti-climax, I , Jean de Bris, am delighted to report that there has been absolutely no electile dysfunction in the Pants department.

We ngineers still know how to handle a big election!

So who, you ask, has popped up as the winner of October's prestigious pants?

It's PROF  WILDSPIN - tho only by a curly whisker! Those "morons at Nature Biotechnology", as Prof Cummins so eloquently described the journal's editorial dept, ran Prof 'Shut-down-and-eat-your-GM-apples'  Wilspin a very close second in the lingerie conflagration stakes.

Merci mes amies!
Jean de Bris
Pants on Fire Chief
*  *  *
A reminder of the basis of the Award-winner's nomination is given below.

Full details of the Award, previous Award winners and a magnificent pair of burnt out undies, all at: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/pants.htm
*  *  *
Wilson of HRI - the original Prof Wilspin

Prof T Michael Wilson, the head of Horticultural Research International was nominated for his GM spin track record plus his planned closure of Stockbridge House, a highly regarded non-GM research centre that has pioneered biological pest control, hydroponics and other alternatives to GM.

Wilson is certainly no friend to alternatives to biotech! Prior to HRI, Wilson was at the JIC and then Acting Director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute, where he was followed by John Hillman who famously used the SCRI's annual report to smear organic farming
[http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/organic.htm]

On leaving SCRI to take up his HRI post, Wilson did a press interview with The Scotsman in which he claimed independent research had already proven GM crops a beneficial technology that encouraged wildlife.

However, the evidence Wilson cited turned out not to be from the source he claimed; not to be independent in the way he implied; and nor did it contain any evidence for benefits to wildlife!!!
[http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/false.htm]

Wilson and Hillman subsequently collaborated on a chapter on GM in the "Fearing Food" book put out by the right wing Institute of Economic Affairs [http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/rightwing.htm]

The book also had a chapter by Dennis Avery on organic farming. Wilson and Hillman's end their chapter with a prolonged rant about "disinformation" and those "who raise speculative risks" and "promote public fear".  Whether they had Wilson's Scotsman article or Hillman's annual report in
mind, who can say!

Wilson also put in an appearance at the OECD conference in Edinburgh where he was among the biotech evangelists making personal attacks on Dr Pusztai - in Mike Wilson's case the attack even extended to Pusztai's wife! [http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/watchingdrpusztai.htm]

The direction of HRI's support for UK market gardening under Wilson was illustrated recently by the 'GM apples to fight tooth decay' story which emerged from HRI research. In other words, under Wilson, HRI threatens the death of the UK fruit industry!

HRI has, needless to sa,y been the recipient of massive amounts of public funding over the years, mostly through MAFF -- yet another illustration of the fact that public investments in science are serving to subsidise interests and outcomes that have no public mandate.

It is in this context that Wilson's axing of Stockbridge House should be seen.
*  *  *
Growers fight  plant centre closure
By Martin Wainwright - The Guardian (London), 18 September 2000   

A leading research centre is facing closure in a  move which has revived fears about scientific promotion of  GM crops and a brain drain from laboratories in the north.

Commercial growers and MPs are pressing the government to  save the 175-acre specialist unit at Stockbridge House at  Cawood, near Selby, North Yorkshire, which has pioneered  biological pest control, hydroponics (growing plants without  soil) and other alternatives to genetic adaption of plants.

Fifty jobs would go in March under a planned restructuring  of Horticultural Research International, the government's  main testing and development arm for market gardening,  fruit and related crops. The Cawood unit, which has  recently added to its three acres of glasshouses, is the  only northern laboratory run by HRI, which is planning to  concentrate on its scientific centres at West Malling,  Kent, and Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.

The axe was announced  by HRI chief executive Professor Michael Wilson, a  proponent of genetic research, to Stockbridge staff, some  of whom were in tears at the prospect of losing tied  housing on the site. Six scientists at the centre have been  offered relocation to the midlands and south.

Commercial  growers, who pay half the costs of the centre, have also  warned that their money may not be transferable to  different research, and are backing a rescue attempt linked  to the government's huge central science laboratories only  20 miles away in York. This would be a match made in  heaven,' said John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby and one of  the backers of an emergency campaign to keep Stockbridge  intact. There's an obvious synergy and we're putting a  robust place and business plan together.'

Senior advisers to Nick Brown, the agriculture minister,  are to hold talks with the group, which is supported by the  National Farmers' Union and headed by a former director of  Stockbridge, Michael Bradley. He said yesterday: It's a  viable site, it's got a good team and a good budget.

There's an awful lot of horticultural science about at the  moment, but much less work on the practical technology  which makes that science useful to growers. That's the  speciality of Stockbridge and we believe it can survive and  prosper.'

Prof Wilson said that the HRI had to remain the major UK  player, fighting fit, competitive and the source of the  highest quality research and development". Recent years had  seen a slower growth than forecast in commercial operations  to make up for a steady cut in the public sector grant to  the non-departmental public body, which is responsible to  the agriculture ministry but dependent on private sector  income as well. Scientists in the north are still sore  about the government's decision earlier this year to build  a pounds 500m synchotron at Didcot in Oxfordshire rather  than Daresby in Cheshire - a site with a greater expertise  in generating high energy X-ray beams to penetrate the  structure of proteins, potentially invaluable in the  development of medical drugs.
 

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