ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

Announcing the winner of the inaugural "PANTS ON  FIRE" award

NGIN is proud to announce the establishment of a new  award dedicated to bringing to public notice examples of bias, deceit and spin in relation to either the promotion of genetic engineering or attacks on organic food. Winners of the award receive a specially mounted pair of scorched Y-fronts to commemorate their particularly illuminating contribution to the great GM debate.

Competition was very keen for the very first award, but three nominees stood out from the crop. In reverse order:

Nomination One: CropGen, the pro-biotech lobby group of UK academics who present themselves as "independent" while being entirely financed by the GM corporations.

Nomination Two: US journalist John Stossel, of ABC TV's "20/20" news magazine programme. John was nominated for wild inaccuracy and possible falsehood in the reporting of matters pertaining to organic farming. In a report on ABC's "20/20", Stossel made an extraordinary attack on organic food, which not only misrepresented scientific research commissioned by the programme, but also claimed it had failed to find something the tests had not been designed to detect! As the San Francisco Chronicle commented, "The fabrication of information on an ABC news report -- not to mention the neglect of extensive evidence disputing its conclusions -- raises serious questions of journalistic integrity." for more on Stossel

Nomination Three - the winning nomination by an overwhelming vote: Sir John Krebs and the Food Standards Agency.
Sir John Krebs and the Food Standards Agency were selected as the inaugural award winners for their complete failure to live up to their billing as a "force for change" in consumer protection.

Professor Sir John Krebs FRS


The FSA under Krebs has been not so much "a force for change" as "a source of spin"!

 "...if the FSA is to be anything more than a useless and expensive clone of MAFF, it needs to represent informed consumer opinion. Post-BSE, consumers have shown very clearly what kind of food they trust: it's no coincidence, after all, that our supermarkets are now brimming with organic food, while GM food is being forced off the shelves. Yet the FSA seems to be pursuing a curiously  contrary agenda..."  - Joanna Blythman writing in the Guardian , November 4, 2000

What is the FSA's agenda under Krebs? Consider the following:

1. Sir John was known to be highly unsympathetic to concerns about GM foods before he was even appointed, dismissing them as "shrill, often ill-informed and dogma-driven".[1]

2. The complete failure of the FSA under Krebs to re-examine the safety of GM foods, despite the high level of consumer concern. Business as usual was guaranteed by the FSA taking its advice from exactly the same old committee (ACNFP) as MAFF.

3. Instead, quickly conducting a safety enquiry into organic food, which has a high level of consumer confidence. Krebs then made a high profile attack on organic food, in the words of The Times, as "an image-led fad"[2]. Dr Patrick Wall, the chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has described Krebs' views on organic food as "extreme"[3].

4. The FSA's proposed research, supposedly monitoring the health effects of consuming GM foods, which epidemiologists have dismissed as "worthless"[4].

5. Evidence that Krebs is far from alone at the FSA in terms of links to the biotech lobby. The director of the Scottish arm of the FSA is Dr George Paterson -- the former director general of Health Canada's Food Directorate. Paterson has been linked to major food safety scandals in Canada involving both fast track approval for a Monsanto GM crop and the overriding of internal government scientists' health warnings on a GM product.[5]

6. Krebs' role as the OECD's GM conference chair in Edinburgh -- an occasion described by Dr Arpad Pusztai, the only critical food scientist invited, as not so much a conference more: "a propaganda forum for airing the views and promoting the interests of the biotech industry."[6]

7. Krebs' collaboration with a pro-GM food-industry-funded body in their agenda-driven initiative to instruct journalists on how they should report issues like the GM debate - see below.

8. The FSA's opposition to enhanced GM food labelling. The EU would like to enhance GM food labelling so that derivatives such as oils and starches are labelled for the consumer. The Food Standards Agency have spoken out against this.[7]

9. The FSA's key role in producing weak international guidelines on GM food allergenicity testing.[8]

Krebs has not only emasculated the agency but turned it into a public platform for his extreme support for GM and his antipathy to organic food.

Krebs puts the "CON" into consumer protection!


In September 2000, Guidelines on Science and Health Communication for the media were published by the "SIRC / RI Forum". Forum member, Professor Sir John Krebs was quoted as saying, "I am very pleased to have played a role in the SIRC / RI Forum and fully support these sound and sensible guidelines" which should help to "reduce the distortions and sensationalism which so often are associated with stories about what we should or should not eat."

The media Guidelines focus heavily on how to avoid overstating risk and alarming the public. The Guidelines have absolutely nothing to say about any danger of  understating risk ie the kind of false reassurances that go to the very heart of the BSE disaster. The Guidelines similarly have little to say about the dangers stemming from conflicts of interest, arising through industry funding of research etc.  Ominously, the SIRC also propose introducing a secret register of approved experts with whom journalists will be advised to check-out their stories prior to publication!

So who exactly is behind this one-sided initiative which Sir John so strongly supports? The prime movers, the SIRC -- the Social Issues Research Centre -- are a food-industry friendly group keen to prevent further media "worries" about issues like GM foods, the benefits of which they say they believe in passionately.

The SIRC are funded in part directly by the food industry (eg Bestfoods, the giant ($8b) US food group) and in part by the SIRC's sister organisation, "MCM Research Ltd", which has identical personnel and which makes the following promises:

"Positive Research ... Do your PR initiatives sometimes look too much like PR initiatives? MCM conducts social/psychological research on the positive aspects of your  business... The results do not read like PR literature, or like market research data... Our reports are credible, interesting and  entertaining in  their own right. This is why they capture the imagination of the media - and your customers." [9]

Then there is Sir John's fellow SIRC media Forum member, Desmond Morris, whose book "Pubwatching",  is  exposed on the MCM website as a PR stunt on behalf of a brewery company, a client of  MCM's -- a tactic of MCM's being to present work on behalf of a client as an independent media event.

MCM's declared client list includes a number of very well known firms from the food and drink industry. Also on MCM's client list is the Portman Group, the drink industry body which was shown a few years back to have sought to pay academics substantial sums of money to support an anonymous attack on a report by the World Health Organisation that documented evidence on the relation between alcohol consumption and drinking problems.

A director of MCM/SIRC has said that Sir John was aware of the SIRC's food-industry funding. [For more on the SIRC initiative]

The famous Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes once wrote, "Tell me what company thou keepst and I'll tell thee what thou art"!

This award is richly deserved.

Sir John's scientist father famously discovered the so-called "Krebs' cycle" -- a not unsuitable title perhaps for the spin machine his son now bestrides.

Does the new "Krebs cycle" have an asbestos saddle?

Certainly, wherever Sir John goes the air is heavy with the odour of scorched Y-fronts!

[1] Quoted in Private Eye 10 March 2000
[2] The Times, September 2, 2000, "Organic produce attacked by food agency"
[3] The Irish Times, September 5, 2000, "Public 'entitled' to organic food option"
[5] For more on this see:
[6] Conference report at:
[7] See:
[8]  In a report from Dr Michael Hansen, Consumers Union and Consumers International representative, from the Codex Ad Hoc Working Group on Allergenicity (10-12 September, Vancouver), he comments on the presence of Nick Tomlinson of the UK Food Standards Agency at the meeting and in particular:  ": "The representative from the UK, Nick Tomlinson, played a key role in producing the weak guidelines, along with Canada and Australia supporting the US.  Tomlinson helped to push the notion that the guidelines should be more general in scope (even though the explicit terms of reference called for developing "detailed procedures" for assessing allergenicity) and never objected to abandoning the decision tree."
[10] For more on the SIRC initiative see:

Just what, as he squats, is bullsh*t specialist Sir John Krebs thinking?

Sir John Kraps

"That's odd... it usually comes out of my mouth."

Prof. Joe Cummins

"Sir John Krebs is a famous bird brain"

... Sir John Krebs  head of the  British Food Standards Agency [has] attacked organic agriculture as a fad. Sir John's attack was modeled after the leadership of Alex Avery in the United States.

It was noted that Sir John was a surprise choice for head of the Food Standards Agency. Actually, Sir John  was Professor of Bird Behavior at Oxford.  The selection committee was deeply impressed by his research showing that  the brains of birds grow after those birds stored food. The selection committee felt much smarter after packing their pantries and kitchen cabinets with nuts and berries.

Sir John's strong point turned out to be establishing pecking orders. For example,  at the Edinburgh Meeting on Genetically Modified Foods Sir John invited Dr Arpad Pusztai  as the sole spokesperson opposing genetically modified (GM) foods then surrounded him with a flock of fluttering twits all criticizing  the good doctor and opposition to GM foods. It seems clear that Sir John  identifies himself with his research subjects and who has ever heard of fair play among the fowl?

For more on the dubious Krebs and the FSA

Professor Bullsh*t

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