An edited version of the following letter was published in The Times today.

Dear Editor,

The outgoing Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, Sir John Krebs, is quite right to say that the Soil Association represents the views of those who grow, process, sell and consume organic food ('Friends of the corporate Earth', 12 April) - not something we have ever hidden, to put it mildly! He is equally wrong to claim that his tenure at the FSA has always been characterised by complete impartiality and reliance only on scientific evidence. This is not the case with either GM or organic food.

As he surveys his tenure at the FSA, Sir John's touchiness about his critics would be surprising, were it not for the unpublicised existence of a review of his record - commissioned by the FSA itself. This review, conducted by Baroness Dean, was slipped quietly onto the FSA's website. It concludes that the "vast majority" of people consulted felt that the FSA had "deviated from its normal stance of making statements based solely on scientific evidence", when "speaking against organic food and for GM food". Baroness Dean stressed that "This view was expressed not only by stakeholders representing organic and GM interest groups, but by those who would be regarded as supporters and natural allies of the Agency".

So, as Baroness Dean makes clear, Sir John cannot blame, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Soil Association or Which? (formerly the Consumers Association) for this blot on the FSA's record. The FSA's promotion of GM foods failed to convince the public, while damaging its own reputation. Its attacks on organic produce have been constantly used by those with a commercial interest in trying to damage organic farming and food.

Yours sincerely,
Peter Melchett,
Policy Director, Soil Association,
Bristol House, 40-56 Victoria Street,
Bristol, BS1 6BY
T: 020 7482 3134 0117 987 4561
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