"The FSA is clearly guilty of bias and manipulation of the facts on GM issues. As the FSA was established in part to restore consumer confidence in national food policies we wish to know how you intend to redress the situation, represent the real views of consumers and restore the trust of all the consumer and citizen groups that you have now lost on the GM food issue."
Food Standards Agency condemned again over GM bias
GM Debate results misrepresented. Consumer Groups not consulted.
Friday 23rd May 2003
Embargoed until Sunday 25th May 9.00am
Nine leading organisations, including the National Federation of Women's Institutes and UNISON, have today written to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) chair, Sir John Krebs, accusing him of manipulating the GM Debate and misrepresenting the views of the public.
The accusations mirror those in a recent report of the FSA's own Consumers Committee1, namely that the FSA produced "incomplete and therefore biased" materials that "ignored existing concerns about GM food" and that it failed to consult them about the GM Debate. Contributors to this report, released on the 6th May, included the Consumers Association and the National Consumers Council.
In today's letter the nine organisations also attacked the FSA for failing to mention, in its own report, the key conclusion of its 'Citizen's Jury' - the main event in its debate - that: "More time is needed to understand the long-term environmental implications of GM crops before farmers start to grow them in the UK - growing GM crops in the UK would be irreversible and might eventually reduce choice"2
The nine signatory organisations are the National Federation of Women's Institutes, UNISON, Food Commission, Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, GM Free Cymru, Genetic Food Alert and the National Association of Health Stores.
In their previous joint letter to the FSA of 4th March, they condemned the biased materials the FSA had created for the debate and the FSA's failure to co-operate with the Government-sponsored GM Public Debate3 (run by an independent Steering Group chaired by Professor Malcolm Grant). These concerns were dismissed by Sir John in the media and at the FSA Board Meeting on 13th March.
The nine organisations have now demanded that Sir John explain how he intends to redress the situation, to represent the real views of consumers and to restore the lost trust of consumer and citizen groups.
Notes & Letter Attached
Page 1 of 3
Press Contact: Robert Vint on 01803-868523 - and others as listed below
A copy of the letter is attached.
The signatory organisations are: Press Contact: Telephone:
National Federation of Women's Institutes
Ben Savill, Head of Public Affairs 0780 308 6115
Kath Dalmeny 020 7837 2250
Jane Robinson, Press Officer 07775 923 896
Peter Melchett (07740 951066) 0117 987 4561
Friends of the Earth
Pete Riley 07712 843 210
Ben Ayliffe 07815 708 683
GM Free Cymru
Dr Brian John 01239 820 470
National Association of Health Stores (NAHS)
Dr Mike Abrahams, Director 0117 973 1967
Genetic Food Alert (GFA)
Robert Vint, National Coordinator 01803 868 523
1. The full FSA Consumer Committee report is posted (rather discreetly) on the FSA website at:
2. The Government promised to hold a Public Debate to help it decide whether or not to allow commercial growing of GM crops in the UK - a decision it intends to make this year. The FSA therefore concealed the most significant finding of its Citizen's Jury - namely that such a decision should be postponed.
3. The official GM Public Debate is being overseen by the Public Debate Steering Board - an independent body created by the AEBC and chaired by Professor Malcolm Grant. The debate was promised by the Government to help it decide whether or not to allow commercial growing of GM crops in the UK. The events and materials for this debate have been developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. Its events will begin on the 3rd June.
The FSA decided to hold its own GM Debate separately from the main debate. Its events have now been completed. The FSA did not consult stakeholders or its own Consumer Committee before planning these events or creating the debate materials for them. The FSA debate materials have been widely condemned for their pro-GM bias.
National Federation of Women's Institutes,
Food Commission, UNISON, Soil Association,
Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, GM Free Cymru,
Genetic Food Alert, National Association of Health Stores.
TO: Sir John Krebs, Chair, FSA
21st May 2003
Dear Sir John,
THE FSA AND THE GM PUBLIC DEBATE
The undersigned organisations jointly wrote to you on the 4th March this year to express our concerns about the nature of the FSA's participation in the GM Debate. We were concerned about the highly biased materials created for the FSA's Debate events, about the way these materials and events had been designed without consultation with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and about the failure of the FSA to effectively co-operate with the main debate process being overseen by Professor Malcolm Grant.
These serious concerns were dismissed by you at your Open Board meeting of the 13th March, yet we now hear that the same concerns have been expressed by the FSA's own Consumer Committee, whose members include the Consumers Association and the National Consumers Council. In their Report to the Board of 6th May, your Committee says that your information materials reflect a pro-GM 'bias'. It is now clear that there is a wide consensus of opinion amongst consumer and citizen groups that the FSA is not representing consumers and is adopting a pro-GM position in the GM Debate.
These concerns are borne out by the fact that the FSA has been highly selective in its reporting of the findings of its own citizens' jury - as revealed in the GeneWatch Press Release of 9th May. In particular we are deeply concerned that an important unanimous finding of the jury - that: "More time is needed to understand the long-term environmental implications of GM crops before farmers start to grow them in the UK - growing GM crops in the UK would be irreversible and might eventually reduce choice" - was carefully avoided in the FSA's report of the event.
The FSA is clearly guilty of bias and manipulation of the facts on GM issues. As the FSA was established in part to restore consumer confidence in national food policies we wish to know how you intend to redress the situation, represent the real views of consumers and restore the trust of all the consumer and citizen groups that you have now lost on the GM food issue.
Helen Carey, National Chairman, National Federation of Women's Institutes 020 7371 9300 (Ben Savill)
Dr Tim Lobstein, Director, The Food Commission
020 7837 2250
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
07775 923 896 (Jane Robinson)
Peter Melchett, Policy Director, Soil Association
0117 987 4561
Pete Riley, Senior Food & Farming Campaigner, Friends of the Earth
0113 389 9955
Stephen Tindale, Executive Director, Greenpeace
020 7865 8282 (Ben Ayliffe)
Dr Brian John, GM Free Cymru
01239 820 470
Dr Mike Abrahams, Director, National Association of Health Stores
0117 973 1967
Robert Vint, National Coordinator, Genetic Food Alert
01803 868 523