Announcing the latest winner of the "PANTS ON FIRE" award
Prof T Michael Wilson, the head of Horticultural Research International
has won the prestigious PANTS ON FIRE award for his remarkable track record
GM spin plus his planned closure of a highly regarded non-GM research centre
Prof. Mike Wilson
THESE ARE YOUR PANTS!
the original Prof Wilspin!
Prof T Michael Wilson, the head of Horticultural Research International has won the prestigious PANTS ON FIRE award for his remarkable track record of GM spin 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 John Innes Centre and was 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
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
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!!!
Wilson and Hillman subsequently collaborated on a chapter on GM in the
"Fearing Food" book put out by the far right Institute of Economic Affairs
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"
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
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
from HRI research. In other words, under Wilson, HRI threatens the death of the UK fruit industry!
HRI has, needless to say 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
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
Commercial growers and MPs are pressing the government to save
the 175-acre specialist unit at Stockbridge House at Cawood, near
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
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.
PANTS ON FIRE!