FSA steering group resignations in protest over UK government ‘pro-GM’ stand

FSA GM dialogue process a ‘PR exercise on behalf of the GM industry’  

by the ANH team

 

......Breaking news: 2nd June 2010:

In a further development, the vice chairman of the steering group that was set up by the Food Standards Agency to gauge opinion on GM food has now also resigned in protest over the public 'consultation' being effectively a pro-GM propaganda exercise. See below for public comments about the resignation of leading academic, Professor Brian Wynne of Lancaster University.


 

On 26th May, Dr Helen Wallace, the Director of GeneWatch UK, resigned her membership of the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) Steering Group for the GM dialogue, with immediate effect. In a public letter of resignation to John Curtice, the Chair of the Steering Group, she declared that it had become clear to her that the purpose of the FSA process was nothing more than a PR exercise on behalf of the GM industry. She also believes that the process would be a significant waste of £500,000 of taxpayers money.
 

FSA accused of trying to implement the GM industry’s PR strategy

Dr Wallace is firmly convinced that the FSA are attempting to implement the GM industry’s PR strategy which aims to: maintain that GM crops will ‘feed the World’; lobbying to end segregation of GM and non-GM food and feed that is entering Britain and Europe, and; opposing the labeling of meat and dairy products from GM fed animals.

She clearly sets out, in her frank and well-referenced letter various pertinent points that shoot down in flames this GM industry strategy, including the revelations that there is ‘no realistic prospect’ of drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant or nitrogen-fixing GM crops, and the fact that GM herbicide-resistant crops have resulted in a major problem with herbicide-tolerant superweeds that are currently spreading across the US, and causing Monsanto’s share price to plummet.

GM causing poverty cycle for poor farmers 

Dr Wallace also highlights the tendency for expensive patented GM seeds, with their accompanying own-brand herbicides, to lock poor farmers into a poverty cycle and a dependence on multi-national seed companies that they find impossible to break.

Read her revealing public letter of resignation here

Soil Association calls for an end to impartial ‘consultation’

In a further development, Peter Melchett, Policy Director of the Soil Association has written to the Right Hon Lord Rooker, Chair of the FSA, calling for an end to the GM ‘consultation’ process, in view of the fact that it can no longer be considered impartial. He points out that, with the resignation of Helen Wallace, it would now be ‘unthinkable’ to spend any further public money on this exercise.

Read Peter Melchett’s letter in the Soil Association article: Helen Wallace resigns from FSA’s Steering group on GM

The FSA should be protecting the public from GM food

The Food Standards Agency is supposedly a non-ministerial UK government department responsible for protecting public health, and for making sure that the food eaten in the UK is safe to eat. There is now ample evidence that GM food is unsafe to eat, as well as ample evidence of many other concerns, particularly major environmental concerns associated with the uncontrolled and non-intentional movement of transgenes (genetically modified genes) in different plant and animal species. It beggars belief that the FSA have been acting in the interests of the GM industry, and, in effect promoting these dangerous foods as safe.

However, seeing that the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority have also adoped a strongly pro-GM stance, the UK government's stand is no surprise.

Dr Wallace’s resignation letter brings out into the open some revelations that will be shocking to some. Others will be relieved that someone has had the courage to tell it how it is. Dr Wallace has effectively told the story of betrayal of duty and public trust, and an abuse of public money—one born out of a need to dance in step with the all-powerful biotech industry.

It is good news indeed that both Dr Wallace... and then Professor Wynne... have taken this stand. We congratulate them and deeply respect their principled decisions.
 


Comments made on the BBC Today Programme by Professor Brian Wynne after his resignation:

The main concern … was that this was being called a public dialogue about food and the role of GM within that and the more I was involved in it … the more it looked much more like … yet another … extractive exercise in eliciting public attitudes to GM. The two things are quite different in their principles. The Government has ... established principles for good practice on public dialogue and various of those principles were being contravened in the way in which the dialogue was being set up.”

The members of the steering group, the officials … from FSA and the other relevant Government agencies … were … operating in a perfectly proper way. It’s the context in which the steering group and the process was being established that I was concerned about and that’s where I think the claim to impartiality is …in a state of institutional denial.

When you … look at the premises on which the FSA is operating then there’s no way in which this can be an impartial public dialogue. The first one is that the GM issue as a public issue is a scientific issue. It’s about risks and … is it safe if I eat GM food. There are many more dimensions to the GM issue alone, let alone food security in the world, than the safety of GM. It’s controversial … but … there are many other dimensions to it which are not scientific issues and I tried to make that distinction in the steering group. It was falling on deaf ears in the FSA around me, not in the steering group itself. The second (premise) is the FSA operates only on sound science. The third one is … that the public is anti science.”

When I challenged (the Chair of the FSA) on that … he equated public attitudes with headlines in … the tabloids. Tabloid headlines are not public attitudes. One can see expressions of an anti science kind occasionally in the public domain on this issue but the public is not anti science in general. To begin with those premises one arrives at a pro GM policy in all but name and … the claim that this is … impartial and that the FSA is impartial with respect to GM is simply not true.”

 


 

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Updated: 2 Jun 2010

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