ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

22 January 2002


from the latest SPLICE, magazine of the Genetics Forum. Subscription details:
say 'pants' to pillocks!

A New Year's resolution for you now - pay attention to the mischief makers at NGIN - and when they offer you the chance of voting for their most prestigious of awards, take the opportunity to have your say! Say 'Pants' to the manipulators of genes and the media.

Since 1999 the awards have been given to some highly influential figures. Take, for example, the very first one. Sir John Krebs was anointed as the supremo of the newly formed Food Standards Agency. It was hoped that this would provide some balance and protection for the consumer and the environment. But how wrong we all were. Referring to gm-critics as "shrill, often ill-informed and dogma-driven," Krebs also set about attacking the organic movement. As NGIN commented, he certainly put "the CON into consumer protection."

Others who join such exulted ranks include the John Innes Centre in Norfolk. Here are some of the foremost scientists in their field, all working with scientific objectivity as their watchword. Or are they? Certainly when it comes to the accuracy of their public pronouncements they sometimes slip from the course of righteousness. When senior scientist Prof David Baulcombe told a public meeting that US government research had shown that the growing of GM crops brought enormous environmental benefits, he was sadly being rather governmental with the truth. No such report existed.

And the JIC's Director, Prof Chris Lamb, has publicly expressed his concern at the "polarisation of discussion about agriculture". Instead of "polarising rhetoric", according to Lamb, the JIC is seeking to foster "balanced scientific discussion." Prof Jones shows his commitment to avoiding such "polarising rhetoric" by terming GM critics, "the green mujihadeen", and posting material on the JIC website describing them, either individually or collectively, as "bigoted", "mystical", "myopic", "anti-scientific", and prone to erupt with "green bile"!

This is without entering the murky world of the libellous Prof Anthony Trewavas, a member of the John Innes Centre's Governing Council who was found by the High Court to have made false allegations against Greenpeace. Prof Philip Stott is another worthy recipient, but there is no space to enter into the extensive justification for his award, though maybe this quote, from one of his more balanced diatribes, will paint an interesting picture!

"Our prime task is surely to ensure that we reap the benefits of this finest of all human adaptations whilst minimizing the risks. Boiling a kettle is a dangerous task; yet it produces that refreshing cup of tea. Biotechnology is no different."
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