1.'GM food is answer to poverty and hunger'
2.Scottish Enterprise - chasing the dream
GM WATCH COMMENT: Scotland's new chief scientific adviser (item 1) has exactly the profile one might predict. Anne Glover is a business-savvy genetic engineer and, as the article below makes all too clear, an evangelist for GM.
Glover's track record includes setting up and spinning-off the firm Remedios from the University of Aberdeen, where she is based. Remedios was named Scotland's "Best New Biotechnology Company" for Biotech Scotland by its industry peers in 2000.
And this, we shouldn't forget, is the land of Scottish Enterprise - an organisation which boasts an international advisory board that includes Monsanto's President and CEO, and an aggressively propagandist approach to building support for the biotech industry - see item 2.
Glover, according to the article below (item 1), is "particularly concerned about the widespread use of the term "Frankenstein foods" to describe GM products." It's a phrase which she says is all about headline grabbing and has nothing to do with reality.
Interestingly, though, in his book Genetically Modified Language, Guy Cook - Professor in Language and Education at the Open University - points out that the phrase "Frankenstein Foods" is most commonly used not by opponents of GM but by proponents, who use it - often over and over again - as an example of misleading media coverage and language used to unfairly sway people's opinions. Cook's book suggests its use is itself misleading as a catch-all for coverage of GM.
1.'GM food is answer to poverty and hunger'
By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor
Sunday Herald, December 24 2006
PEOPLE ARE being urged by Scotland's new chief scientific adviser to embrace genetically modified (GM) food as an answer to poverty, hunger and toxic pollution.
Professor Anne Glover, herself a genetic engineer, is urging consumers to ignore labels like "Frankenstein foods" because they are misleading and damaging. The potential benefits of GM crops are "huge", she says, and the risks "extremely small".
But her enthusiasm for GM food has infuriated environmentalists, who fear she could exert an important influence on Scottish ministers. They argue GM crops are "potentially dangerous" and point out that they have been widely rejected by the public and supermarkets.
Glover, a molecular biologist from the University of Aberdeen, was appointed chief scientific adviser earlier this year by Nicol Stephen, the deputy first minister. She is an expert on microbes and has genetically engineered bacteria to glow in the dark.
She has taken luminescence genes from deep sea organisms and transplanted them into soil bacteria. The healthier the soil, the brighter the bacteria glow, making it possible to use them as biological sensors for measuring environmental contamination.
It's that research which informs Glover's view of GM foods. "I'm absolutely in favour of genetic manipulation carried out under appropriate guidelines," she told the Sunday Herald. GM food could help end poverty and hunger in the world, as well as reducing farmers' use of hazardous pesticides, she said. "I think GM crops might well be able to help us in addressing some of these issues."
Crops could be engineered to resist drought, or to have a higher nutritional value, she argued. They could also be developed to produce biofuels to use as a renewable fuel for vehicles.
Blight-resistant GM potatoes being trialed in England could help Scotland's potato market, she suggested. GM crops could also deliver cheaper foods with longer shelf lives.
"They have a significant amount to offer, globally, in terms of how they could be used to better produce crops under difficult conditions and to reduce the amount of chemicals used in agriculture," Glover said.
The public debates that had so far taken place had been "really poorly informed", she added. "There's an astonishing lack of knowledge about genetic modification."
Glover also said that she didn't understand why people were prepared to eat fast food that was high in fat and preservatives known to be bad for health, but were worried about GM.
Glover was particularly concerned about the widespread use of the term "Frankenstein foods" to describe GM products. "That's really unhelpful," she said. "We need to learn from what's happened over GM foods to ensure that we don't allow developing new technologies to be hijacked by phrases which are all to do with headline-grabbing and nothing to do with reality."
But her views were fiercely rejected by the Soil Association, which promotes and certifies organic food. "There is no evidence whatever that Scottish consumers want GM products in their food supplies," said Hugh Raven, the association's director in Scotland.
"If the Scottish Executive's advisers can't grasp that in a democracy it's not very clever to foist potentially dangerous new technologies onto reluctant consumers, God help us all."
Raven pointed out that several studies had raised questions about the safety of GM organisms for human consumption. Some showed that modified genes could transfer into bacteria in the human gut.
Scottish ministers have postponed a long-promised consultation on the "coexistence" arrangements under which GM crops might be grown north of the Border until next summer. No GM crops have been grown in Scotland since trials of GM oil seed rape ended in 2003.
The Scottish Greens' environment speaker, Mark Ruskell MSP, has proposed a bill to Holyrood to make GM companies strictly liable for any economic damage caused by contamination from GM crop trials and commercialisation.
"I think the professor needs to wake up to the reality of GM crops and to the basics of plant biology. Once the GM genie is out the bottle, there is no going back," Ruskell said.
"She only needs to look to Canada where farming businesses have been left crippled after their crops have become contaminated. Given that GM crops would ruin the Scottish agriculture industry, I'm at a loss as to why the government's chief scientific adviser is determined to push this agenda."
Glover, however, stressed that scientists should not impose GM onto an unwilling public. They should explain the benefits, leaving it up to people and politicians to decided what they wanted.
2.Scottish Enterprise - chasing the dream
In October 2002 the then Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Monsanto, Hugh Grant, joined the newly formed international advisory board of Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's main government-funded agency for economic development. Grant's fellow board members included the chief executive of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, and the senior vice-president of Genzyme Corporation, one of the top ten biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
Scottish Enterprise's love affair with biotech began in the 1990s. At the end of that decade it launched a Framework for Action, which committed the Scottish tax payer to injecting nearly $64 million between 2000 and 2004 into the development of 'biotech customers'.
As 'Network Director - Biotechnology' at Scottish Enterprise, Peter Lennox, whose principal previous experience had been in the Food and Drinks (whisky) sector, was charged with the goal of doubling the number of biotech companies in Scotland from 50 to 100.
'Already our Biotechnology industry is world famous for Dolly the Sheep,' Lennox enthused. Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, had come into the world in 1996 at the Roslin Institute, just outside Edinburgh.
In 2000 it was announced that the company behind Dolly, PPL Therapeutics, was to build a drug manufacturing plant in Scotland. Scotland had been chosen, it was said, because of the financial support on offer from Scottish Enterprise which provided guarantees to underwrite PPL's repayment of GBP13.8m in loans.
For Lennox 'Dolly' was but the icon at the centre of an emerging 'biotech tartan triangle' that could be a major economic driver for Scotland. 'We have many other leading lights,' he claimed, 'who need enthusiastic and well informed young people to bring their talents to the industry in order to both maintain and increase that momentum through the 21st century.'
To help generate those 'enthusiastic and well informed young people' for the biotech sector Scottish Enterprise decided on a highly controversial course of action. In early April 2001 it announced that, 'Your World magazine, an informative and colourfully illustrated publication covering the key current topics of biotechnology, will be introduced to over 600 education establishments throughout Scotland from today, to augment the curriculum literature on life sciences... Produced in the US by the Biotechnology Institute, the magazine has seen great success in America for both education and industry alike.'
To coincide with the announcement, Scottish Enterprise brought together educationalists and industrialists at the Glasgow Science Centre to hear how Scottish Enterprise’s Biotechnology Team had helped formulate teachers’ notes to align the content of seven issues of the magazine to the Scottish school curriculum.
Simon Best, Managing Director of Geron Bio-Med, which like PPL Therapeutics was a commercial off-shoot of the Roslin Institute which produced Dolly the Sheep, spoke at the presentation, noting: 'Scotland is already a globally competitive player in Biotechnology... The education system should be the bedrock of building and maintaining public trust. The publication of 'Your World' is an important step in securing a healthier, wealthier and more sustainable future for Scotland.'
But many thought that the distribution to schools of Your World was a violation of public trust. An article in The Sunday Herald bore the headline, Fury at pro-GM school magazines. The article noted thatYour World was produced in the U.S. by an organisation called the Biotechnology Institute whose funders included Monsanto and Novartis. The President of the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO) sits on its board. The article noted that, in promoting the magazine, Scottish Enterprise, had failed to mention 'the fact that it has been sponsored by multinational GM companies'.
One issue of Your World was on GM crops. It claimed GM was 'creating better plants' and criticised organic farming. It also suggested pupils experiment with growing Monsanto GM soybeans. It featured the Monsanto-connected GM evangelist Florence Wambugu. The magazine's scientific advisor was CS Prakash, the controversial editor of the AgBioWorld website whose pro-GM campaign was co-founded with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, described by The Centre for Media and Democracy as a 'well-funded front for corporations'.
According to The Sunday Herald, 'The "infiltration" of industry into the curriculum worried the Educational Institute of Scotland, the trade union representing teachers. The institute's general secretary, Ronnie Smith, wanted Scottish Enterprise and HM Inspectorate of Education to exercise more critical judgement, and urged teachers to do the same.'
Martyn Evans, the director of the Scottish Consumer Councilcommented, 'The biotech companies behind the magazine are using the provision of education as a marketing opportunity to influence pupils.'
However, according to the article, 'Scottish Enterprise's biotechnology director, Peter Lennox, dismissed criticisms of the involvement of GM companies as nonsense. "I'm flabbergasted that anyone should raise this," he said. "It didn't even cross our minds. I thought it was just knowledge. Biotechnology is an enigma wrapped in a mystery and there is a lack of knowledge about it."'
Lennox was head-hunted to become the New Zealand Government's biotechnology chief - 'Industry New Zealand Director Biotechnology' - after Prime Minister Helen Clark named biotechnology as one of three sectors that held the key to New Zealand's prosperity.
There was a special link between biotechnology in Scotland and New Zealand. PPL Therapeutics, the company behind Dolly the Sheep, had part of its operation in NZ where it maintained over 3,500 sheep on 440 acres of farmland. In 1996, the New Zealand authorities had granted PPL approval to import semen from Scotland taken from sheep genetically engineeredto produce a medicine.
But in January 2002 the icon of Scottish biotechnology was diagnosed as having a form of arthritis that would usually only be expected in older animals. The following year the decision was taken to 'euthanase' 6-year-old Dolly after a veterinary examination showed she had a progressive lung disease, again a condition more common in older sheep. Sheep often live to 11 or 12 years of age.
By September of 2003 PPL Therapeutics had decided to sell its assets and shut its doors. This followed its loss of 18.6 million pounds in 2002, up from a loss of 12.7 million in 2001. In April 2003 PPL had announced it would not be building the drug manufacturing plant that Scottish Enterprise had been so keen to underwrite, saying that the venture was too 'risky'.
New Zealand was left with a large herd of unwanted GM sheep on its hands.
By 2003 Scottish Enterprise's international advisory board member, Hugh Grant, had become Monsanto's President. Grant had joined Monsanto in Scotland in the 1980s. In October 2003 Monsanto announced it was pulling out of the European cereal business with no GM products to show for its investment. (Monsanto to quit Europe)