ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

13 March 2003


REPORT CLAIMS FSA BOSS 'IS PRO-GM', ran the headline in last Sunday's Sunday Herald. According to the article, "the credibility and independence of Scotland's food safety watchdog" had been thrown into doubt in the wake of accusations that Dr George Paterson, director of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland was "in favour of genetically modified food and a friend of big business".

The article was based on an expert report, from  John Verrall of the Food Ethics Council, detailing the role of Paterson as director general of the food directorate within Health Canada between 1996 and 2000. During Paterson's tenure, "the directorate was ensnared in controversy and internal disputes over a series of food safety issues", mainly centering on genetically engineered products.

Two days later the Scottish Executive published a rebuttal of the Scottish Parliament's Health and Community Care Committee's report on GM Crop Trials, rejecting all of its recommendations. Ross Finnie, Scotland's Minister for the Environment and Rural Development, was quoted as saying, "The views of the Committee members are clearly at odds with the evidence of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Executive's independent scientific advisers."

In fact, the members of the Health Committee had listened to and read the evidence of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, as presented by its general Secretary Prof Andrew Miller, and had found it less convincing than the evidence and analysis provided by other scientists.  It now emerges, however, that Prof Miller, the very scientist whose evidence and presentation the Health Committee found so unconvincing, has been appointed by the Scottish Executive, via its First Minister, Jack McConnell, to the board of the Food Standards Agency.

Prof Miller is one of three new members who will join a board charged with the overall strategic direction of an organisation responsible for safeguarding consumer interests. He will also be in a position to influence the advice to the devolved administration in Scotland, ie he'll be amongst those scientific advisers by which Ross Finnie sets such store.

Ever get the feeling that the public oversight of this technology is actually a private conversation amongst a tiny group of like-minded individuals?

Miller's 'everything's fine' testimony to the Health Committee is here:

Many thanks to Marcus Williamson of 'Genetically Modified Food News'
<> for alerting us to this appointment.


New Board members

Wednesday, 12 March 2003
The appointment of three new Board members was announced today by the Food Standards Agency.

Christine Dunn, Professor Andrew Miller and Dr Sati Ariyanayagam join the Board this month, having been appointed by the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Milburn, and the First Minister in Scotland, Jack McConnell.

Sir John Krebs, Chair of the Agency, welcomed the new members, saying: 'I am delighted that the Board will have three new extremely able and experienced members. I have no doubt that they will strengthen and consolidate our ability to make decisions to protect public health and consumer interests.'
About the new members

Christine Dunn was a founder, and until 2002, Managing Director of Danby‚s Foods Limited, a producer of own label and branded, frozen and chilled ready meals. With a comprehensive understanding of all stages of food production and the supply chain, Mrs Dunn is particularly knowledgeable about matters of food safety and quality assurance standards. She was a Director of Business Link York and North Yorkshire from 1996-1999 and is currently a Council Member of Food from Britain.

Dr Ariyanayagam has been active in representing the consumer and public health interest for several years, as a member of the Committee on Toxicology (COT) and the Advisory Committee on Research; as a contributor to the Commission for Health Improvement as Clinical Governance Reviewer; as a member of the Consumers' Association; and in his role serving on committees including the professional conduct and performance panels of the General Medical Council. He is a consultant physician at Oldhurst Hospital in Essex.

Professor Miller is a molecular biophysicist who has had a distinguished career in research and in leading charities and universities, working in the UK and Australia, France and the USA. From 1994-2001 he was Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling and from 2001-2 the interim Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK where he oversaw the merger of ICRF and CRC into the largest cancer charity in the world. At present he is general Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

ngin bulletin archive