The BBC's become the Biotech Broadcasting Corporation, failing to ask searching and challenging questions and leaving commercial interests unexposed.
See also our earlier piece on Science Britannica
BBC Runs Ads for GMO Technology
GM Education, 24 September 13
Did you know the BBC carried advertising? Well, this week, hard on the heels of Brian Cox's TV promotion of GM, Radio 4 ran an "advertorial" for Syngenta
We daren’t say it can’t get any worse because it probably can; but the BBC’s promotion of GM technology has hit new lows in the last few days.
First up on Wednesday (18th Sept) was the winsome Prof Brian Cox being a GMO groupie in his new series Science Britannica.
Then on Monday morning (23rd Sept) on Radio 4’s Farming Today programme, Charlotte Smith seemed to swoon sycophantically as she spoon-fed Syngenta’s spokesman through what was little more than an advertising slot.
If either piece had been in the commercial breaks on other channels, the Advertising Standards Authority would have them up for making injudicious or misleading claims.
One-sided and manipulative
A review in the London paper “Metro” said that when Cox “strayed into morally murky waters” of GM crops and animal testing he was “extraordinarily one-sided – and emotionally manipulative to boot.”
He allowed GMO researcher Jonathan Jones of the John Innes Centre free reign to promote GM and to denigrate those who question the value or safety of genetically engineered crops.
There was no-one to give an alternative view and Cox himself declared that there “is masses of evidence” to show that GM “is safe and effective”.
Concerned citizen, Cherry Lavall, was so appalled by Cox’s biased approach that she rang the BBC and complained (03700 100 222).
Cherry asked: “Has Cox really read nothing of the 'massed body of research' which says the exact opposite? Should he not have quizzed Jones a little more rather than swallowing whole what Jones said?”
"Cox is a physicist, of course, not an agronomist or geneticist, but all the more reason to dig a little deeper rather than accepting an assertion about a subject outside one’s specialism.”
As she told us; “It is particularly worrying because Cox is so popular and puts across a very seductive case.”
“Calls himself a scientist? Where is scepticism about whatever he’s told? As the current golden boy he really must do better!”
Had he done better and dug a little deeper he would have found that there is no real consensus amongst independent scientists about either the safety or the effectiveness of GM crops.
Cox might also have discovered that far from being an “independent expert” the public can trust, Jonathan Jones is mired in GM interests.
Although his day job at the John Innes Centre is largely funded by the taxpayer it has significant GM industry support.
Jones owns a pocketful of GMO patents, and he co-founded and sits on the advisory board of a US company which has extensive contracts with GM companies such as Monsanto and Bayer.
There is absolutely no reason to suppose that Farming Today presenter Charlotte Smith has any financial interest in the fortunes of Syngenta, has ever been hired by them, or even wants to be.
But after Monday’s performance they ought to buy her a present at Christmas.
Why, then, was she so soft on Syngenta?
Biotechnology Broadcasting Corporation
We don’t suggest you go onto the BBC I Player to “listen again” but if you feel you should, we suggest you wait until you have finished eating.
Farming Today has in the last few years seemed like the PR arm of the John Innes Centre.
We thought it was because Smith’s co-presenter Anna Hill lives in Norfolk and because we’re in financially austere times that doing pro-GM stories from Norwich saved on petrol.
But no, it is clear that somehow promoting GM has become a BBC position, as it has in many newspapers.
This is not how our country’s national public service broadcaster should be.
Both sides of the issue ought to be presented with equal time and quality.
If only a pro-GM speaker appears then at least the interviewer should ask searching and challenging questions – and reveal clearly the business interests of any so called “independent scientist”.