ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
27 February 2003


Dr Brian John will be on Farming Today (BBC Radio 4) first thing Friday  morning speaking about the Food Standards Agency's attempts to hijack the GM public debate. Nobody from FSA would be interviewed! See item 3 for Dr John's letter on the FSA.

2.GM Science Review: Open Meetings
3.Complaint about the activities of Sir John Krebs and FSA
4.Two ways to help stop GM planting in Britain...



February 27, 2003
10 Downing Street

Members of the public will get the chance to have their say on genetically modified food in a nationwide debate during May, June and July. The government has agreed to provide £500,000 to fund the debate twice the original budget.

The programme will include:
*six national and regional conferences - three in England and one each in Scotland, Wales and NorthernIreland - venues to be announced
*smaller county-level meetings a 'toolkit' to encourage discussion right down to village and local group level a film - to be made widely available - by the filmmaker Roger Graef

The events are designed to reach a wide cross-section of society, said Professor Malcolm Grant who is chairing the debate steering board.

"This is the first ever national attempt to explore the issues around the introduction of a major new technology through widespread public discussion," he said. "Our aim is to provide several different avenues for public discussion and deliberation, giving people access to the information our initial research has shown they want in an impartial and innovative way.

"We will report to government what people are saying in the debate. We have a commitment from government that it will respond publicly to our report and show what it has learned from the debate."

The Board is due to report its findings to the government and the devolved administrations by the end of September.


2.GM Science Review: Open Meetings

The aim of these scientific meetings is to explore, in public, the science underlying particular GM issues. The formats will vary but it is envisaged that 3 to 4 scientists will be invited at each meeting to offer different perspectives on an issue. Reports of the meetings will appear on this web site.

The meetings are free of charge. They are being held in various venues around the country. The British Association for the Advancement of Science ( are organising some of the regional meetings.

If you wish to attend a meeting please contact the organisers - email and/or web site addresses are provided alongside the details of each event.
Current Programme of Meetings
The current programme of forthcoming events is as follows:
Gene flow in agriculture and the environment - Monday 17 March 2003, 3pm -5pm, William Davies Conference Hall, Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Plas Gogerddan, Bow Street, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3EB.

Numbers are limited. Email or call the BA on 020 7973 3052.
GM animal feed : safety implications for the food chain - Belfast, Tuesday 11 March 2003, 7 pm-9 pm: Agriculture and Foods Science Centre, Newforge Lane, Belfast, BT9 5PX.

The theme of the meeting is: What is the current state of knowledge on the safety of GM animal feed and its implications for animal and human health? Speakers will present their views to representatives of the GM Science Review Panel.

Numbers are limited. Email or call the BA on 020 7973 3052.


3.Complaint about the activities of Sir John Krebs and FSA

Trefelin, Cilgwyn, Newport, Pembrokeshire,
South Wales SA42 0QN
Tel:  01239  820470      Fax 01239  821245

Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP,
Secretary of State for Health,
House of Commons,
London SA1A 0AA                                 23rd February 2003

Dear Mr Milburn

Complaint about the activities of Sir John Krebs and FSA

We were very supportive of the creation of the FSA three years ago, and have agreed with many of the things that it does.  But we have been increasingly concerned about the erratic behaviour of Sir John Krebs, the high-profile Chairman of FSA, who seems to be out of line with the members of his own Authority and even with the Government on certain key health issues.  For example, he takes every opportunity to attack organic farming methods and organic foods, and thereby undermines the Government's own policy of supporting the organic sector and promoting "healthy eating."  More to the point, he also alienates the taxpayers who pay his salary and who recognise the merits of maintaining choice in the marketplace.  He is certainly seen by many farmers and food producers as supportive of "chemical farming", highly-processed foods and additives galore.

More seriously, we are now very angry about the manner in which he subscribes to "the precautionary approach" in a highly selective fashion. He clearly endorses the use of caution in the meat sector, bearing in mind all the traumas suffered by the British people as a result of FMD, BSE and CJD in recent years.  But then we contrast this with his attitude to GM crops and food, and we find a man who loses all his inhibitions and who has embraced GM technology with an enthusiasm which is not just embarrassing but positively dangerous.

You will be aware that there is currently a storm of protest coming from NGOs and consumer and health groups across the country about the pro-GM messages coming from the FSA.  A sense of disquiet commenced some time ago when the FSA encouraged the Government to resist attempts by the EU to enforce strict labelling standards for foods containing GM products. Thankfully, the FSA view did not prevail, but Sir John has clearly failed to take on board the message that he was out of touch with the mood of the rest of Europe.

He has clearly now come to the view that GM foods and crops are entirely safe to eat, and he has embarked upon a mission to convince a sceptical British public that he is right and that those who urge caution are wrong.

He has just allocated £150,000 to this campaign, which includes focus groups, publications, videos and web site presentations. We have seen some of this material, and we are appalled, for it makes no pretence of impartiality. It is not balanced information material, but material which promotes a single message. It can only be describes a crude pro-GM propaganda.  Who authorised the expenditure of this money?  Some of it was ours, and we feel that we have been betrayed by this man and his associates in the GM industry.

If one examines the scientific basis upon which Sir John has based his GM "educational crusade", it is found to be extremely flimsy.   The FSA has dismissed a number of animal feeding trials conducted with GM feedstuffs which show that there are undoubted adverse effects.  The Authority has dismissed as "insignificant" the results of a very limited human feeding trial (using one small meal of GM soya) which showed that fragments of GM DNA survive in the human gut; and pleas for this research to be extended into proper clinical trials of people eating large quantities of GM foods have also been dismissed.  Over and again, Sir John cites the Royal Society's assurances that GM foods are entirely safe, while failing to notice that the RS assessment is itself based upon bad science and the fraudulent citation of sources (Note 1).  Whatever happened to the precautionary principle, and whatever happened to scientific integrity?

We further point out to you that in his promotion of GM technology Sir John has gone against the specific wishes of his own Authority (see Note 2 below), who have urged that the FSA attitude to GM should be characterised by caution and by impartiality, in recognition of the facts that large numbers of British people do not want GM products, that concerns have been expressed about GM health impacts by (among others) the BMA and the Scottish Parliament, and that there appears to be a "competitive advantage" for those supermarkets which refuse to handle GM foods.

Finally, we are appalled at the manner in which Sir John has sought to disrupt the "public debate" strand of the Government's Review of GM crops.

The whole programme (three strands) was supposed to consist of a Science Review (coordinated by DEFRA), an Economic / Strategic Review (coordinated by the Cabinet Office) and a public debate coordinated by AEBC, with Prof Malcolm Grant in charge.  Somehow or other, the FSA has engineered a special status within the Science Review, and has used this opportunity to initiate work which is clearly designed to demonstrate that the public is less concerned about GM than we have otherwise been led to believe by the Consumers Association and other bodies. The FSA's pro-GM publicity materials have been used in this exercise, again making a nonsense of the Authority's pretence of impartiality.

We are aware that Sir John Krebs is accountable to you and to the Health Ministers in the devoloved administrations. The main objective of the FSA is "to protect the public from risks which may arise in connection with the consumption of food(including risks caused by the way in which it is produced or supplied.)"  We believe that Sir John has made no attempt to protect the public from the risks associated with the consumption of GM food, and he has failed to demonstrate that GM food is free of risk. Specifically, with relation to the FSA Code of Conduct, he has failed act in accordance with provisions 1.5 , 2.1(b) , 2.2(a) and 7.1.

To summarise, we believe on the basis of the above that Sir John has failed in his duty towards his colleagues within the FSA, towards yourself and towards the public.  We believe that he has infringed the guidelines which relate to his position as Chairman (Note 3 below) and has disregarded the minuted decisions of his own Board (Note 2 below).  We would appreciate confirmation of the action you will now take.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Brian John
for GM Free Cymru
Note 1.  We will provide full details to support this claim, if you would like to see them.  We have already communicated our concerns to the Royal Society, but have received no reply.

Note 2.  Extracts from FSA Board Minutes.

Minutes  Jul 2002
8. Board members asked for a short note summarising where discussion in the EP [European Parliament] compared with the Board's position on the different aspects of the GM proposals to assist any future discussion and also for an update on any developments  that would assist in delivering traceability of GM food ingredients. Board members also cautioned against being drawn into any campaign 'promoting' GM. Public debate of these issues was good and useful, but the Board should always retain its public health and consumer interest viewpoint.

 September 2002
Item 6 Update on GM Issues  (Paper FSA 02/09/04)
55. Board members noted that the Agency's contribution to the Government GM debate had to be handled impartially. The Agency had no role to promote industry interests, but its priority was consumer choice and public safety.
November 2002
Item 5 GM Labelling  (Paper FSA 02/11/03)
35. Board members expressed a range of opinions for and against the 'GM-free' option and the labelling of GM derivatives. On labelling derivatives, some opposed systems that were not demonstrably practical and enforceable. Others suggested that problems encountered in other sectors did not mean that any system based on paper traceability for derivatives should be dismissed. Some of those supporting the FSA's current position noted that work on improving traceability should also be taken forward. All agreed that the FSA's position should be kept under review.

Note 3.  Extract from FSA Governing Document re Codes of Conduct etc
Board Members‚ Roles and Responsibilities
A.2 The Role Of The FSA Chairman and Deputy Chairman
A.2.1 The Chairman is expected to be beyond reproach on the question of independence.


4.Two ways to help stop GM planting in Britain...

From:"Alissa Cook, Soil Association" <>
Dear supporter

After September 2003 the UK government will decide whether to allow commercial GM planting.

There is still time for you to tell the government whether you want GM crops in Britain. You can take action today that will make a difference.
There are two things you can do:

- 1 -

You have until Friday 28 February 2003 to send the government your
response to their latest consultation document on GM crops. It focuses on the economics of introducing GM crops into our food supply.  The consultation is part of the UK government's economic review of GM. You can read the document at: product.pdf#page=1

As the document is long, you may want to focus your comments on consumer choice issues and the economic impact of GM on farmers.

To find out how to respond to this paper, visit:

- 2 -

Take part in the GM public debate: Although it's still not officially started, you can feed in your views on GM at

The public debate has been set up to ensure your views on GM are heard.

For much more news on GM and the public debate visit

Please forward this email to any friends or colleagues you think may be interested.

Kind regards.

Alissa Cook, policy assistant
Soil Association
Bristol House, 40-56 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6BY
T: 0117 914 2433
F: 0117 925 2504
Campaigning for organic food and farming and sustainable forestry.
"[Monsanto] is a company that has been optimistic on the borderline of lying," said Sergey Vasnetsov, senior analyst with Lehman Brothers in New York. "Monsanto has been feeding us these fantasies for two years, and when we saw they weren't real," its stock price fell.

"...those are the two big, bad bullies in the market [Monsanto and Syngenta], so they're going to slug it out," said Bill Johnson, a weed scientist with Purdue University." - Monsanto wants to sow a genetically modified future, By Rachel Melcer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 02/22/2003

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