29 November 2002

Bias claim over panels looking at GM crops

By Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent

Tony Blair's public consultation on genetically modified organisms was accused of bias yesterday after it emerged that members of the GM crop industry have been appointed to two supposedly independent review panels.

The Prime Minister's campaign to convince the public that GM crops should be grown commercially in Britain involves a scientific review of research into GM organisms, an economic review of their costs and benefits, and a public debate. But the panel of scientists includes leading members of Monsanto and Syngenta, the two largest producers of GM seed and products.

Dr Andrew Cockburn, director of scientific affairs at Monsanto, and Dr Simon Bright, Syngenta's European head of genomics, are among 25 panel members.

The review was condemned by Friends of the Earth as a farce because it will end before the Government's farm-scale trials of GM crops have finished.

The independence of the report into the costs and benefits of GM appears to be similarly compromised. The panel includes Dr Paul Rylott, of Bayer Crop Science, and Dr Roger Turner, of the British Society of Plant Breeders, both supporters of GM technology.