"[A JIC spokesperson] said the funding crisis was not related to the fading prospects for genetically modified crops in Britain. The centre has been heavily involved in GM research and suffered when the biotech company Syngenta pulled out of a joint initiative in 2002.
Last month, results from the government's field scale trials showed that growing GM oilseed rape in the UK would harm wildlife and the environment, in effect ending the biotech industry's hopes of introducing GM varieties in the foreseeable future."
Interestingly, though, the MP Dr Ian Gibson who is close to the JIC has blamed its difficulties in obtaining funding on "the current public ill feeling over genetically modified crops" and the collapse of a multi million pound deal with GM giant Syngenta. (Funding blow cuts jobs at John Innes)
GBP3m shortfall at John Innes Centre
David Adam, science correspondent
The Guardian, April 12, 2005
Dozens of scientists at one of Britain's most prestigious laboratories face redundancy after a GBP3m hole was uncovered in its accounts. The John Innes centre in Norwich, a world leading research facility for plant and microbial science, blamed changes in European funding and increased costs.
Chris Lamb, director of the government-funded centre, said: "A significant shortfall in our income has developed over the last 18 months. Our position will worsen if we don't take action now. It should not be interpreted as a crisis for the centre as it will aid, not hinder, the long term viability." The centre needs to save GBP1.6m a year and will axe up to 35 scientific posts from a staff of 350.
Prof Lamb said up to GBP3m of anticipated money from industry and the European Union had been lost over the past three years. Several large plant breeding and agricultural technology companies have merged, reducing the research contracted to the centre. The EU has reduced funds available for agricultural research to focus on stem cells and medicine.
Existing savings of GBP400,000 a year were not enough, he said. "This painful course of action will secure the long term sustainability of the John Innes centre as a world leading research institute. The planned restructuring will also allow us to rebuild depleted reserves and invest in infrastructure and new research." Price rises in electricity, insurance and rates also contributed.
Scientists at the centre blamed financial mismanagement. "It's just a complete cock-up," said one, who did not want to be identified. "No sensible financially prudent organisation would have banked on getting that money in. People here are cheesed off and it's not their fault. It's bad management. For at least two years we haven't been able to get any sensible figures from our accounts department."
The source said at least GBP500,000 had been wasted because new EU regulations meant that dozens of fixed term post-doctoral researchers, usually employed for three years, had to be kept on for an extra six months.
Ray Mathias, spokesman for the centre, denied it had acted improperly: "As far as I'm aware any guidelines we've had, plus our own advice to resolve issues raised by changes in people's employment, have been carried out."
He said the funding crisis was not related to the fading prospects for genetically modified crops in Britain. The centre has been heavily involved in GM research and suffered when the biotech company Syngenta pulled out of a joint initiative in 2002.
Last month, results from the government's field scale trials showed that growing GM oilseed rape in the UK would harm wildlife and the environment, in effect ending the biotech industry's hopes of introducing GM varieties in the foreseeable future.
Scientists at the centre fear the cuts are the first step towards a merger with the neighbouring Institute of Food Research. Both receive government funds through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Administration and support services at the two sites are to be merged under the restructuring plans.