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“Independent” scientists promoting GM crops have conflicts of interest

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Scientists asked to look into GM crops for the UK prime minister have conflicts of interest with the GM industry.

“Independent” scientists promoting GM crops have conflicts of interest

GMWatch press release, Friday 14 March 2014

According to the Science Media Centre, the Council for Science and Technology (CST), the body that advises the Prime Minister on science policy issues, last year “asked a group of independent scientists to look into the developments in the science of GM crops”.[1]

The resulting report[2] is claimed to make “a series of recommendations that would allow a safe and sustainable agriculture to use GM varieties for the benefit of the farmer, consumer, and the environment. The report is being published to coincide with a letter from the CST to the Prime Minister drawing on the findings and recommendations of the report.”

GMWatch points out, however, that the scientists asked to look into GM crops (listed below) are not independent of the industry.

Claire Robinson, editor at GMWatch, said, “By no stretch of the imagination can these people be described as independent scientists. On the contrary, all have vested interests in the acceptance of GM crops by the public and policymakers.

“Their views should be treated with the same skepticism we would apply to any sales pitch.

“CST apparently cannot find any scientists independent of the industry to support its case for GM crops. This is not surprising, since GM crops have failed to live up to the hype and are mainly delivering herbicide resistant superweeds, insecticide resistant superpests, and worrying findings in animal toxicology studies.”[3]

Notes

[1] See Appendix of this press release

[2] www.gov.uk/government/publications/genetic-modification-gm-technologies

[3] http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf

The 5 authors of the report are

Professor Sir David Baulcombe, University of Cambridge

In a September 2013 journal publication, Baulcombe noted in a conflict of interest declaration that he “receives research funding” from GM/pesticide giant Syngenta and “is a consultant for Syngenta”.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6152/1320.summary

Baulcombe was Senior Research Scientist and Head of Laboratory (from 1990-1993 and 1999-2003) at the Sainsbury Laboratory.
http://www.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/directory/baulcombe-david

The Sainsbury Laboratory is based at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, with which it is "closely linked".
http://www.tsl.ac.uk/about.htm

The JIC has made deals with major biotech corporations, such as Syngenta (originally Zeneca) and DuPont, worth tens of millions of pounds. It has received millions in donations from the pro-biotech billionaire Lord David Sainsbury, after whom the Sainsbury Laboratory is named.
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/John_Innes_Centre

Professor Jonathan Jones, Sainsbury Laboratory

Jones is a founder of and advisor to the biotech company Mendel Biotechnology, which counts Monsanto as a major client.

As at July 2010, Mendel had been granted over 20 biotechnology and GM patents.

In its 2008 Annual Report it listed as one of two lines of business that were central to its growth a collaborative project with Monsanto on soybean yield, "the basis of which is a Mendel technology".

Mendel's 2009 Annual Report noted two collaborative partnerships: one with Monsanto and the other with Bayer CropScience.
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Jonathan_Jones

Jones also co-founded the UK’s “first GM crop company” to find ways of commercialising Sainsbury Laboratory GM research.
http://www.norwichresearchpark.com/parkdirectory/norfolkplantsciences.aspx

Professor Jim Dunwell, University of Reading

He is a founder member of the pro-GMO lobby group CropGen
http://www.researchinformation.co.uk/pest/2000/B006364I.PDF
which is funded by the GM industry
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/CropGen

Professor John Pickett, Rothamsted research

He works at Rothamsted Research, which, although principally publicly funded via the BBSRC, has listed Aventis, DuPont, Novartis and Syngenta as “partners”.

He broke the protocols of peer review by publicly attacking Dr Arpad Pusztai’s research paper on GM potatoes before it was published.
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/John_Pickett
http://www.theguardian.com/science/1999/nov/01/gm.food/print

He claimed the GM wheat trial at Rothamsted “has no commercial connection whatsoever”. Yet in the same interview he said, “Companies are very interested [in the research] and they are keeping a watching brief” and “It could be that we generate very good intellectual property for commercial development in the interests of the UK and European agriculture and business.”
http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/28/03/2012/132176/gm-wheat-trial-begins-amid-high-security.htm

Professor Pere Puigdomenech, University of Cambridge/Barcelona

Puigdomenech is an inventor on a biotech patent.
http://patents.justia.com/inventor/pere-puigdomenech

He is staff member at Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG), Barcelona, Spain.
http://www.grace-fp7.eu/content/centre-research-agricultural-genomics-crag-spain

CRAG is a public research institute which prides itself on its “close collaboration with Industry”.
http://www.cragenomica.es/welcome

He was an EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) GMO Panel member 2003-2006.
http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/gmomembers/gmopreviousmembers.htm

He was co-chair, Seventh International Plant Molecular Biotechnology Congress, sponsored by Monsanto, Bayer and DuPont:
http://bit.ly/O1DGo5

Contact Claire Robinson This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+44 (0) 752 753 6923

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Appendix

Science Media Centre news briefing

UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 00.01hrs Friday 14th

What?  New report on GM

When?   10.00am Thursday 13th March (report available to read at 9.30am)

Where?   The Wellcome Trust, 215 Euston Road, NW1 2BE

The Council for Science and Technology (CST), the body that advises the Prime Minister on science policy issues, last year asked a group of independent scientists to look into the developments in the science of GM crops since the Royal Society report published in 2009

The result is a new 50 page report which records the progress of the first generation of crops, the potential applications coming through the pipeline and the regulatory challenges.  The report makes a series of recommendations that would allow a  safe and sustainable agriculture to use GM varieties for the benefit of the farmer, consumer and the environment. The report is being published to coincide with a letter from the CST to the Prime Minister drawing on the findings and recommendations of the report.

Speakers will include:

Professor Jonathan Jones, Sainsbury Laboratory

Professor Jim Dunwell, University of Reading

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Adviser

For further information please call Fiona Fox on 020 7611 8365

Notes to editors:

The authors of the report are

Professor Sir David Baulcombe, University of Cambridge

Professor Jonathan Jones, Sainsbury Laboratory

Professor Jim Dunwell, University of Reading

Professor John Pickett, Rothamsted research

Professor Pere Puigdomenech, University of Cambridge/Barcelona