ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

10 February 2003


3.What's the Government's Strategy Unit up to?



Immediate release    7th Feb 2003


In an unprecedented attack on the Royal Society, a number of NGOs have accused that august body of attempting to rig the current debate on the science of GM crops and foods. They also claim that senior figures within the organization are undermining its former good name and reputation by using crude propaganda techniques (instead of good science) to attack scientists who have the temerity to question the safety of GM foods and crops.

The "public debate" about GM crops is already looking like a shambles, with inadequate funding, a timetable which has been queried by Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and widespread criticism over the involvement of bodies perceived as promoting the GM agenda.   The Royal Society has assumed a pivotal role in the scientific part of the debate (1), but already there are widespread complaints from independent scientists and NGOs on the following grounds:

*  the science review is promoted by the Government as being somehow separate from the "public debate", and is seen as an elitist or specialised activity designed to promote the expansion of the UK biotech sector and to justify the commercialisation of GM crops.  From the point of view of the NGOs, the science review is being undertaken in order to further the commercial agenda of the biotechnology multinationals.

*  the meetings thus far arranged are packed with the proponents of GM technology, with independent scientists marginalised or excluded (2).

*  there are no proper arrangements for public involvement in the Royal Society process, and those facilities that do exist appear to have been designed to discourage the participation of "outsiders" in meetings.

*  the Royal Society has been accused of orchestrating a press campaign to "flag up" a series of very dubious conclusions about the supposed environmental benefits of a GM crop management system developed at Brooms Barn Research Station, in spite of the demonstrable inadequacies of the brief scientific paper on which these conclusions are based (3).

*  the organisation stands accused of attempting to "sabotage" the publication of the Report on the Health Impacts of GM Crops published by the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee, by issuing its own press release on the Brooms Barn study on the same day (14th January).

*  the Society has organized a "science meeting" on the Science of GM crops on exactly the same day as the "Gene Futures" conference organised by the GeneWatch / Five Year Freeze alliance.  Pure coincidence?  Thus the Society ensures that hardly any dissenting voices will appear at its own meeting, and also ensures that press reports of the Gene Futures conference will be "countered" by its own publicity.

*  there has been direct involvement by the Royal Society in the vilification and bullying of scientists and even journal editors who have published research which is "inconvenient" to the biotechnology industry (4).  The campaign, first exposed by the press in 1999 but still on-going, involves some very senior Fellows and Council members.

*  the Society has become involved in overtly political activity by promoting the interests of the Government and the biotechnology industry above the interests of science and the general public.

*  the Society is now allowing one of its publications to be used as the publication vehicle for the results of the DEFRA Farm Scale Evaluation programme for GM crops, involving a very strange and possibly corrupt "peer review" process.

*  the Royal Society is a registered charity, but in its promotional activities it persistently breaks Charity Commission rules. This has now led to a request from NGOs to the Charity Commissioners for the charitable status of the RS to be removed (5).

Some of these points have been raised in a recent letter to Lord May, the President of the Royal Society, from GM Free Cymru (6).  Other organisations in England and Scotland have also complained about the Society's blatant shift from scientific impartiality into the direct promotion of GM technology (7).  Spokesman Dr Brian John says:  "We are gravely concerned about what is happening within the Royal Society. For an organisation which supposedly exists to promote all that is best in British science, and which supposedly supports integrity and interaction, its direct involvement in pro-GM propaganda and in bad science is a disgrace. The Society's behaviour is certainly damaging its own credibility and its international reputation; more to the point, it is turning the "science strand" of the GM debate into a farce."



(1)  See Royal Society web site

(2)  For example, the first Science Review Open Meeting in London on 23 January had a platform line-up with seven out of the eight promoting GM technology.  Five of these were past or present members of ACNFP.

(3)  See letter from Dr Mark Avery (RSPB Director of Conservation) in "The Independent" on 17 January 2003, and the Soil Association's considered response.

(4)  The campaign to discredit the findings of Dr Arpad Pusztai by Professors Lachman, Prickett and Patrick Bateson continues to this day, while no attempts have been made to replicate or improve his research.

(5)  Letter to Charity Commissioners available on request

(6)  Available on request

(7)  For contacts please ring or Email GM Free Cymru

This is what the Royal Society says about itself:

The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences.  Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society and as a funding agency.  It responds to individual demand with selection by merit not by field.  The Society's objectives are:
Recognise excellence in science
Support leading-edge scientific research and its applications
Stimulate international interaction
Further the role of science, engineering and technology in society
Promote education and public understanding of science
Provide independent authoritative advice on matters relating to science,
engineering and technology
Encourage research into the history of science

Contact details for Royal Society Press and Public Relations Office:
Tim Watson, tel:  +44 (0) 20 7451 2508

The Royal Society Publications, The Royal Society,
6 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG,

Registered Charity No 207043
The Royal Society - promoting excellence in science



From: Brian John <
Sent: Saturday, February 08, 2003 10:56 AM
Subject: GM debate -- please get involved!

Hello folks

In case you have not registered the fact, the Government's great GM Debate is now under way.  It is a shambles, with Wales and Scotland reluctant to cooperate, and with nobody very clear as to when the whole thing starts and stops, but the important thing is that the Government seems to be taking it seriously.  So we need to get involved. If we don't, we can be sure that there will be a concerted campaign to "flood" the debate with messages from the GM multinational employees and scientists working on GM research projects.

The Royal Society (you thought it was a respectable and rather dusty outfit?!!) is coordinating a massive media campaign with a pro-GM agenda, involving many of the top scientists in the country. Lord May, the President, has called his troops into action:

 "It is important that discussions about the potential benefits and risks of GM  technology include a similar consideration of modern agricultural practices  and novel foods.*** For this reason, it is vital that scientists from a wide  range of disciplines participate, not just those who have traditionally been  involved. Otherwise there is a risk that the debate will be swamped by a  well-orchestrated campaign involving those having special interests. We will  also need to utilise the expertise of those of you who are outside the UK."  (From his recent letter on the Royal Society web site)

*** What this actually means is "Modern agricultural practices are totally appalling.  Cultivation with GM crops may be slightly less appalling. Therefore we can sell GM crops to the public by saying that by comparison they are absolutely wonderful."

Remember -- a lot of these guys stand to lose their jobs and their research funding when the GM industry collapses, as it surely will.  So they are highly motivated.  That means we must get involved instead of looking in from the outside.

The debate has three strands:

*    A public debate - go to:

*    A review of the scientific issues - go to:

*    A study by the Strategy Unit into the overall costs and benefits of GM crops - go to:

There is an attempt on the web sites to discourage non-specialists from participating.  Don't be fooled by that one! It is vital that the commonsense views of non-specialists are given due respect.

For example, on the Science Debate you will see that contributions  are already beginning to build up on the "GM Debate" web site.  Go to this page:
 follow the guidance and send them an Email.  The moderator should paste your contribution, and if he Emails you to say he won't use it, give him hell! A healthy lack of respect is appropriate in the circumstances.  You can send Email contributions on any of the following "science" topics:

GM Food safety
Gene flow, detection and impact
Environmental impact of GM crops
Future developments
Regulatory process

Please give a few minutes of your time to get something on the record -- this may be your last chance to get involved before the Government makes come very crucial decisions regarding GM crop commercialisation.

If you have friends and relatives who feel strongly on this issue, and who want to get involved, please pass this Email on to them.




3. What's the Government's Strategy Unit up to?

via Jean at GM-ACT: Strategy Unit

151 individuals/organisations responded to the original Strategy Unit paper.

So far, I have only heard that one of these (Tom Rigby) has been informed about the next stage of consultation.

Just out of interest, could you let me know if you received a notice about the 5 working papers.

This is the message that Tom received.  I suggest that you all write to Nick Garland in order to obtain copies of the papers, complain that you weren't told about the latest stage in the consultation exercise and request an extension to the consultation period.


 ----- Original Message -----
From: Garland Nick - Strategy Unit -
To: GM Crops Contacts <
Cc: SU GM Crops <
Sent: Friday, January 31, 2003 9:39 AM
Subject: Strategy Unit GM Crops Project
 I am pleased to be able to inform you that the Strategy Unit has today  published an overview methodology paper, and a series of background working  papers, in respect of its study on the costs and benefits of GM crops. These  papers are available at, or I  would be happy to send them to you by email or by post if that would be more  convenient.   Each of the published papers contains a list of questions on which views are  invited. Additional evidence and information would also be welcomed by the  Strategy Unit GM Crops team. The closing date for responses to arrive in  Strategy Unit is 5pm on Friday 28th February. The Strategy Unit may not be  able to take into account information received after this date.   Thank you for your ongoing interest in the Strategy Unit GM Crops study.

 Many thanks

 Nick Garland

 The Cabinet Office's computer systems may be monitored and communications  carried on them recorded, to secure the effective operation of the system  and for other lawful purposes.

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