Despite the recent outcry over its activities Scottish Enterprise appear to be ploughing ahead regardless with their pro-biotech education campaign in Scotland, and it's becoming clear that via industry and the public purse they are able to deploy some very formidable resources in pursuit of building closer ties between the educational sector and the biotech industry.
It was an article in Scotland's 'Sunday Herald' that originally alerted the Scottish public to how, without any parental knowledge or consent, Scottish Enterprise was introducing Biotech Industry Organisation funded material into schools in the form of the 'Your World' science series. The series includes an issue on GM food and crops edited by hard-line agbiotech propagandist C.S. Prakash.
In its article the Sunday Herald noted, "More than 140,000 glossy brochures sponsored by the US corporate giants of genetic modification such as Monsanto are being pushed into Scotland's schools by Scottish Enterprise. 20,000 copies of seven editions of Your World are this month being sent to 600 schools and colleges throughout Scotland as a 'teacher's resource for biotechnology education'. In promoting the magazine, neither Scottish Enterprise nor HM Inspectorate of Education mentioned the fact that it has been sponsored by multi-national GM companies." [http://www.mindfully.org/GE/GE2/Biotech-And-You-Scotland.htm]
The contents of the 'Your World' issue on GM food and crops include such items as:
Creating Better Plants
Profile of Florence Wambugu [Monsanto-trained pro-biotech scientist in Kenya]
Something you can try: growing GM soybeans [http://www.mindfully.org/GE/GE2/Biotechnology-And-You.htm]
The BIO material is clever propaganda. It can appear open-minded because it poses questions but throughout the text it provides its own answers: eg "All these methods give us some control over plant breeding, but they are time-consuming, trial-and-error processes. Since the 1980s, genetic sciences have made plant breeding more quick and precise - and expanded its reach."
As a consequence of the Sunday Herald article, there has been an outcry in Scotland and Scottish Genetix Action has called for:
* the 'Your World' issue dealing with GM food & crops to be withdrawn from Scottish schools
* a system to be established to ensure that in future a balanced debate is held before materials such as this go into the education system, in order to make sure that all sides of the argument are put forward.
* biotechnology to be studied as a social/ethical issue and not purely as 'science'
However, Scottish Enterprise are pressing ahead with their various biotech related projects as was made all too clear recently when the Scottish Colleges' Biotechnology Consortium was launched on 9th May at Bell College in Hamilton.
Peter Lennox, who is the network Head of Biotechnology for Scottish Enterprise, was the first speaker at the launch. It was Lennox who told the Sunday Herald that any concern over the 'Your World' series going into Scottish schools was 'nonsense', and that the BIO-funded science series was just a useful educational tool for explaining biotechnology to children.
At the launch, Lennox talked about the size of the biotech industry in Scotland and about the obstacles industrial growth faced which included scepticism, the cost of bringing R&D forward, and the time taken by the approval process.
Jack Jackson from Her Majesty's Inspectors (for educational standards) spoke on forming closer ties between education and industry. He responsed to the Sunday Herald coverage of 'Your World' magazine by saying that the public and schoolpupils should learn more about the benefits and the issues in order to make informed judgements.
Dr. John Porter (Scottish Colleges Biotechnology Consortium) spoke about the objectives of the consortium which is all about schools, colleges & industry working together. The Consortium plans to develop 'centres of excellence' with four training labs at Fife College, James Watt College, Bell College and Falkirk College.
Dr. Andrew Ramsay (Scottish Colleges Biotechnology Consortium) undertook a Scottish Enterprise funded tour of US biotechnology colleges, and found that the curriculum was decided by industry. Industry is very supportive. There are even outreach programmes in pre-school education, apparently.
The Consortium says it will offer not only retraining and on-line learning but will help with in-depth study and "will educate the public and workforce".
This is a 1-million pound project which will run initially over 2 years and involves working closely with industrial partners to design courses to meet their needs.
The Consortium is strongly supported, it seems, by the Scottish Further Education Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise and biotech companies with a Scottish base.
According to the Consortium, they are "targeting the biotechnologists of the future" by "working with other well-established educational organisations." They also say that they "work closely with the schools sector by providing support for practical areas of the curricula to build the enthusiasm and knowledge base that will benefit the industry as a whole."
If you have views on their activities, Scottish Enterprise can be contacted as follows:
Peter Lennox, Network Head of Biotechnology, Scottish Enterprise, 120 Bothewell Street, Glasgow. G2 7 JP 0141 228 2818 fax
Scottish Enterprise help line number is 0845 6078787. www.scottishenterprise.com