"Academics said the departure of Syngenta, with the loss of 100 jobs, marked the final nail in the coffin for GM research in Britain"
for profiles of academics (and GM evangelists), Profs Wilson and Trewavas, see www.gmwatch.org
Firm shuts British project on GM crops
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
The Daily Telegraph, 1 July 2004
The last big biotechnology company working on genetically modified crops in Britain is to transfer its efforts to the United States.
Academics said the departure of Syngenta, with the loss of 100 jobs, marked the final nail in the coffin for GM research in Britain. They blamed the Government as much as environmental groups and gave warning that a brain drain might follow.
"If you are looking for a symbolic moment, this is it," said one professor of plant genetics. "It is the end of big plant biotech in the UK. But, then again, can you blame them?"
Earlier this year, the GM food lobby was dealt a blow when Bayer CropScience gave up attempts to grow GM maize in Britain.
2Now the Government faces further embarrassment with Syngenta moving its project from Bracknell, Berks, to North Carolina, according to today's issue of the Times Higher Education Supplement.
Syngenta is the largest agribusiness in the world and produced the first GM product on the British market: tomato puree. A spokesman said it planned to invest £10 million in a biology complex in Bracknell focusing on herbicides and fungicides.
Many plant scientists have already left Britain and some said Syngenta's move might prompt a further exodus to GM-friendly countries such as America and Australia. Prof Michael Wilson of Warwick University said GM science had been undermined by Britain's "Luddite landscape."
He said: "Anyone who isn't about to retire will leave the country. We are all feeling, 'What the hell is the point'."
Prof Anthony Trewavas of Edinburgh University said morale in the plant science community was at an all-time low. "We are noticing a reduction in students wanting to do molecular courses. They don't see a career in it anymore. All they hear is antagonism and anxiety."