A Working Group of the Nuffield Council on Bio-ethics has produced a pro-GM report. When they produced their last one on this topic in 1999, George Monbiot described it as "perhaps the most asinine report on biotechnology ever written. The stain it leaves on the Nuffield Council's excellent reputation will last for years."

The second item below, from a couple of months back, names the members of the Working Party who have produced the new 'study'. Here are background details on 3 of the 5, who all contributed to the previous study:

Professor Mike Gale

Associate Research Director, The John Innes Centre, Norwich. The JIC has received millions in funding from the GM giants including Syngenta and DuPont as well as via Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby trust. Prof Gale is on record as saying that a GM moratorium would be a massive blow to the JIC and the Norwich Research Park and that it would choke off the grants it is currently getting from industry. Prof Gale has said of a GM moratorium in the UK, "It would be very, very serious for us." The previous Nuffield report - in direct contrast to the British Medical Association - came out strongly against any form of GM moratorium. The current study says that a European ban on GM products will slow the possible benefits of the technology in developing countries.

Professor Derek Burke

Former Chairman of the committee (ACNFP) that advised the government to approve the first GM food for the UK. Formerly a member of the governing council of the John Innes Centre (JIC). In the 1980s he worked for biotech company Allelix Inc  and until 1998 was a director of Genome Research Ltd. Burke participated in the UK government's 'Technology Foresight'exercise to decide how science could best contribute to the UK's economic competitiveness. He was then charged with incorporating the Foresight proposal to build businesses from genetics into the corporate plan of the UK's public funding body, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). As a result, BBSRC developed a strategy for integrating scientific opportunity with the needs of industry. Financial considerations are a critical concern for Burke, according to a recent article advising scientists how to campaign for nanotechnology in the light of the GM debate, 'the consequence of the loss of this technology for society is the loss of the ability to create new wealth. It's my grandchildren that I'm concerned about. How will they earn their living in 20 years? The answer may lie partly in your hands.' ('This will be like no other debate', Times Higher Education Supplement)

Professor Michael Lipton

Lipton is a development economist at the Poverty Research Unit, University of Sussex. He is a strong supporter of GM and a contributor to Prakash's AgBioView list. He has argued that (GM) Golden Rice is "the best chance we have of rapidly reducing blindness and attacking a main cause of death among young children in the rice-eating areas of the world". He warns that it is threatened by "a great anti-scientific wave" and that NGOs which oppose it should have their charitable status brought into question. He doesnt appear to consider that the millions of dollars to be invested in the GM rice could better be spent on the cheap and effective approaches available now nor that those likely to be most directly affected by this technology should be centrally involved in decision making about it.

For more on the previous Nuffield report:

GM crops 'good for developing countries'
By Pallab Ghosh
BBC Science correspondent

Genetically modified (GM) crops can contribute substantially to improving agriculture in developing countries, an independent scientific think-tank has concluded. In a discussion paper out on Tuesday to coincide with a national GM debate in the UK, the influential Nuffield Council on Bio-ethics says the technology has the potential to increase crop yields and improve the livelihoods of poor people.

The need to feed an ever-increasing global population is the GM lobby's most powerful argument for why European nations should invest in research into GM and open up their markets to GM products.

Many aid agencies, though, have voiced scepticism, arguing that such "technical fixes" take the focus away from the structural problems that cause poverty.

Complex issues

The six-month Nuffield study by senior scientists and economists has concluded that the technology has the potential to substantially improve the lives of the world's poorest people, and it should be given a chance.  More controversially, it says that the effective European ban on GM products will slow the possible benefits of the technology in developing countries.  The study does, however, say that much of the privately funded research into the area will help rich farmers get richer.  It therefore recommends that European governments should spend more public money on research, specifically to help those most in need.

Helping hand

Nuffield Council director Sandy Thomas said the council recognised it was discussing only part of a much larger picture.  "Food security and the reduction of poverty in developing countries are extremely complex issues.

"We do not claim that GM crops will eliminate the need for economic, political or social change, or that they will feed the world.  "However, we do believe that GM technology could make a useful contribution, in appropriate circumstances, to improving agriculture and the livelihood of poor farmers in developing countries."

Commenting on the Nuffield report, Matthew Lockwood, ActionAid's Head of Policy, said: "The UK public should not be duped into accepting GM in the name of developing countries. GM does not provide a magic bullet solution to world hunger. What poor people really need is access to land, water, better roads to get their crops to market, education and credit schemes."
Nuffield Council announces follow-up discussion paper to
Genetically modified crops: ethical and social issues
Published: 31 March 2003 - Inquiry: Genetically modified crops
For immediate release
Genetically modified crops: ethical and social issues

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics provoked considerable discussion with the publication of its Report, Genetically modified crops: ethical and social issues in 1999.  The Report recommended that, if the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops in developing countries could be shown to be a cost-effective way to reduce malnutrition, there was a moral imperative to encourage the application of GM technology.  Now, three years on, the Nuffield Council announces it is to re-assess the conclusions and recommendations of its Report in the light of recent developments, with particular reference to developing countries.

On the evidence available in 1999, the Nuffield Council concluded that GM crops could provide significant benefits to developing countries, provided that potential risks to health and the environment could be managed.  Possible benefits included increased yields, enhanced pest resistance and tolerance to stress, improved nutrition, and new products, such as vaccines produced in crops. However, there were several unanswered questions when the Council's Report was published. Some of these remain, but a range of new scientific evidence is now available to help assess the potential of the technology.  GM crops have been grown on a considerable number of small-holding farms in developing countries over the last three years. Recent trends in poverty and hunger in developing countries also need to be considered. Rural poverty has become an increasing concern, while at the same time improvements in crop yields have slowed. Water shortages are also more acute, as discussed at the World Water Forum last week. The potential application of GM technology will be considered in the context of developments in regulation, trade, intellectual property rights and consumer attitudes.

"We feel it is timely, in the light of recent developments, to re-assess the recommendations we made in the 1999 Report," commented Dr Sandy Thomas, Director of the Nuffield Council. The Council will publish a draft Discussion Paper on the topic for consultation in June 2003. The potential application of GM in developing countries is often neglected in the UK debate.  It is hoped that the Council's paper will contribute to the national dialogue on GM taking place this year.

Notes to editors:
1. For further information please contact: Nicola Perrin on 020 7681 9627 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
2. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body which examines the ethical issues raised by developments in medicine and biology. Established in 1991, it is funded by The Nuffield Foundation, the Medical Research Council and The Wellcome Trust.
3. The Report, Genetically modified food: ethical and social issues, was published in May 1999 and is available to download from the Council's website at: Printed versions can also be ordered from the website.
4.      Members of the Working Group
Dr Sandy Thomas (Chair)
Director, Nuffield Council on Bioethics
Professor Derek Burke CBE
Former Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia and Chairman of the Advisory Committee for Novel Foods and Processes (1988-97)Professor Mike Gale FRS
Associate Research Director, The John Innes Centre, Norwich
Professor Michael Lipton
Poverty Research Unit, University of Sussex
Professor Albert Weale FBA
Professor of Government, University of Essex and member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics
5.      Terms of Reference
1       To briefly examine recent, current and prospective developments in the use of genetically modified crops in developing countries, in particular:
i)      to review recent progress of research in the use of genetically modified crops in developing countries
ii)     to identify current and possible applications of genetically modified crops that would be of particular benefit to developing countries;
2       to re-examine and assess arguments set forth for and against the use of GM genetically modified crops in developing countries;
3       to assess the consequences of a moratorium on the use of genetically modified crops in developing countries;
4       to produce a short publication.
*Force-feeding the hungry: a primer on the food aid crisis

*The US is the World's Stingiest Donor,13365,967654,00.html

*Washington's Aid Promises Misleading

*US sinks plan to stop the West undercutting African farmers

*Africa's scar gets angrier, The Guardian, Tuesday June 3, 2003,9321,969259,00.html