Parliamentary evidence shows industry stranglehold on UK science
Prof Crute of Rothamsted Research - a recent contributor to the Sense About Science booklet promoting GM - is also keen (see his answer to Q158) to see industry "end users" being "influential" over the way in which the UK's public funding Council for the biological sciences, the BBSRC, spends its money.
Despite this Crute claims the BBSRC has an "academic dominance", but there's reason to doubt that. Up till 2002 the head of the BBSRC was a director of Syngenta! And its boards tend to be routinely stuffed with industry employees. No wonder biotech has been swallowing up the lion's share of the BBSRC's funds.
SECURING FOOD SUPPLIES UP TO 2050: THE CHALLENGES FOR THE UK
Wednesday 4 February 2009
Q152 Lynne Jones: Does that matter if industry is doing it?
[Mr Bill Clark, Rothamsted Research]:
Well, it matters because the work we do for industry, the work we do we try to have it strategically aligned with what Rothamsted's role is, but if BSF [BASF? - GMW] comes to us and says, "We have this wonderful new thing," whether it is a variety or a chemical, whatever, and they want us to work on it, we are essentially working for them. We are not working for UK growers, we are working for that company. They may ask us to work on GM beet. It is of no interest to British farmers. It might be very good for that company in the States. So it keeps the research going and it keeps people like me, who are translational people, who are interested in knowledge transfer and doing the research and putting it into practical use.
So it maintains a pool of people, but that pool of people is dwindling because there is no Government funding, and even the levy funding is going down. So there is a danger that we are living on almost the crumbs from industry, but if we do not get support from Government that group of people who can do that type of research will be gone.
Q158 Lynne Jones: You call for a considered plan. How is that plan going to be developed?
...I think actually the other thing that needs to happen in this context in
terms of the strategy we are propounding here would be that actual the end user, not just Defra as end user but the industry as an end user, whether the supply side industry in terms of seeds, agrichemicals, fertilizer, or the growing industry, or even perhaps the advisory sector, which of course has grown up in terms of independent crop consultants, who are also transmitting science into practice, that these end users should actually be influential over the way in which that budget for science is used.
So at the moment - and I am an employee of the Research Council but I can speak boldly here - it seems to me that the way the Research Council is actually
constructed is that it is constructed with, you might say, a token view of
having people present who represent sectors of the industry in the case of
BBSRC the pharmaceutical sector, the agriculture sector, but the dominance
of the Council is actually an academic dominance, which inevitably means it
is self-perpetuating the demands of science.