3 June 2002

Critic of GM drama denies conspiracy

By Tom Leonard, Media Editor

A scientific adviser on a BBC1 drama about genetically modified crops rejected its creators' claims yesterday that he was part of a multinational "conspiracy to undermine the truth".

Dr Mark Tester, a GM researcher at Cambridge University, was attacked simultaneously yesterday by Alan Rusbridger and Ronan Bennett, co-writers of Fields of Gold, after he said they had ignored his criticisms and produced a programme "to inflame uninformed anti-GM hysteria".

Dr Tester's rubbishing of the scientific credibility of the thriller, in which a lethal GM-created superbug runs rampant through the human and animal population, was repeated by other senior scientists who were shown a preview of the programme.

In a letter to The Telegraph, Mr Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, insisted that Dr Tester had changed his mind during the making of the programme.

He had not been nearly so critical of the plot when he was shown a script in July last year, claimed Mr Rusbridger.

Writing in the Observer, the Guardian's sister paper, Mr Bennett claimed that the criticism of his drama - which will be shown over two nights next weekend - was part of an "ugly little conspiracy".

However, Dr Tester insisted yesterday that he had not changed his mind.

"They [Rusbridger and Bennett] admit they're not scientists but if they really do want a balanced debate they have to appreciate the scientific difference between possibility and probability. Their programme is not plausible - as I warned them, they went too far."