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Re: Monsanto scientist helped author SAS's GM guide - Private Eye

Here's more about Andrew Cockburn, the Monsanto man who Private Eye (item 1) have just outed as an unacknowledged "ghost writer" of Sense About Science's GM guide: 'Making Sense of GM.'

Cockburn was Monsanto's Director of Scientific Affairs (Europe and Africa) - see here (2003)

Cockburn's also identified as a Monsanto employee in annex 4 of this RS doc (2006)

He now seems to have his own consultancy: Director of Toxico-Logical Consulting Ltd

As Private Eye noted, Cockburn's involvement in the UK Government's GM Science Review back in 2002-2003 led to considerable controversy - see: Bias claim over panels looking at GM crops, Telegraph, 28 Nov 2002

And contributed to the resignation of one of the other panelists, Prof Carlo Lefeit:
"'The final straw came when he was told that Andrew Cockburn of Monsanto had been commissioned to write the first draft of its consideration of GM safety issues,' said the source. In the House of Commons on Thursday, Joan Ruddock asked the new Environment Minister Elliot Morley if he was concerned that the food safety section had been written by a Monsanto employee. Morley did not reply."
Dissenting adviser quits GM panel
Observer, 20 July 2003

It seems Cockburn's worked with Sense About Science before. Here he's identified as one of the contribitors to 'Making Sense of Chemical Stories' but, interestingly, his employment by Monsanto (and before that agrochemical/pharma giants AgrEvo/Aventis) is not mentioned.

For a document reassuring people about chemical risks not to mention that before founding Toxico-Logical Consulting Ltd., Cockburn worked for nearly 40 years in "Global food, pharmaceutical and crop protection industries, the latter involving both chemistry and advanced breeding/biotechnology", seems a little less than frank.

They obviously couldn't pull that stunt with the GM guide because with all the hoo ha previously about Cockburn's involvement in the GM debate, who he was would have been spotted straight away.

In the Times Higher Education article (item 2 below) it refers to speculation that SAS had not disclosed Professor Moses' directorship of an industry funded lobby group "because it was afraid of arousing public suspicion". How much more would that have been the case with a long-serving Monsanto employee!

So, it looks like instead of just airbrushing out his industry connections, as with Prof Moses' chairing an industry lobby group or Prof Leaver's biotech consultancies, SAS decided simply to airbrush Cockburn himself out!

Given that Private Eye has a draft of the GM guide which acknowledges his contribution, this would suggest that not only SAS were party to this. Even if they weren't consulted about it, the GM guide's other authors will inevitably have seen that Cockburn's details had been removed, yet they have remained silent about it during the controversy over contributors' industry interests.
GMW: Monsanto scientist helped author SAS's GM guide - Private Eye

1.Monsanto scientist helped author SAS's GM guide - Private Eye
2.Charity guide criticised for not declaring GM interests - Times Higher Education

NOTE: Item 2 is the Times Higher Education piece referred to in the Private Eye article (item 1).
1.Private Eye No. 1232, 20 March - 2 April 2009

A spat has broken out over a Times Higher Education article highlighting the failure of a new guide to GM food, 'Making Sense of GM',  to disclose its industry connections.

Tracey Brown of Sense About Science,  publisher of the guide, condemned the T.H.E. article as "mischeivous" and "rude" and claimed it relied on "tortuously indirect links" between the authors and the GM industry.

But the Eye has a copy of an unpublished draft of the guide ˆ and it seems it wasn't just the industry links of some of its authors that didn't appear in the final published version. One of the guide's listed authors, Andrew Cockburn, is also missing. Who he? None other than GM giant, Monsanto's former director of scientific affairs, and a figure so controversial that when former PM Tony Blair invited him to author part of the government's official GM Science Review, it led to questions being raised in the House and the resignation of one of expert panellists.

No wonder Sense About Science felt erasure was the better form of valour.
2.Charity guide criticised for not declaring GM interests
By Zoe Corbyn
Times Higher Education, 19 February 2009

*Sense About Science pamphlet failed to list contributors' links with industry. Zoe Corbyn reports

A charity has come under fire for failing to declare all industry affiliations of the experts it enlisted to compile a booklet explaining genetic modification to the public.

The pamphlet was produced by Sense About Science (SAS), a charity that claims to promote scientific reasoning in public discussions.

According to anti-genetic modification campaigners and academics, it failed to mention links between some of the experts who wrote the booklet and GM firms.

For example, the guide's biography of Vivian Moses, emeritus professor of microbiology at Queen Mary, University of London, and visiting professor of biotechnology at King's College London, does not mention that he is also chairman of CropGen, a GM lobby group that receives funding from the biotechnology industry.

It says only that he has been "a full-time researcher in biochemistry and microbiology" and is now "primarily concerned with communicating science to the public".

Critics also argued that the guide should have noted that the John Innes Centre, where eight of its 28 contributors are based, received funding from biotechnology companies.

Michael Antoniou, a geneticist at King's College London, described the omissions as "outrageous".

He said: "GM is a sensitive issue. People have been extremely suspicious because of its industrial connections. So it is imperative that they declare these in this context, as in a journal publication."

Dr Antoniou, who himself provides technical advice to anti-GM campaign group GM Watch, speculated that SAS had not disclosed Professor Moses' directorship because it was afraid of arousing public suspicion.

Guy Cook, a professor at The Open University who conducted two research council-funded studies into the language and arguments of the GM debate, agreed that the contributors' interests should have been declared.

"If not, they deal a severe blow to their own cause, the authority of science, which rests upon rationality, objectivity, evidence and disinterest," he said. "The problem with GM advocacy is that it has compromised these principles, and in so doing has dangerously undermined public trust in scientists."

David Miller, professor of sociology at the University of Strathclyde, who is involved in running the website, likened the pamphlet to "a PR exercise".

In a statement to Times Higher Education, Professor Moses said his CropGen role was not a secret but should have been spelt out.

"Had I been asked by SAS how I should be described (I wasn't asked and presumed it knew as I have been one of its advisers for years), I would have suggested: visiting professor of biotechnology, King's College London, and chairman of CropGen."

A spokesperson for the John Innes Centre stressed that most of its funding was public.

"We do not regard our affiliations to industry as a contentious issue. Our interests are not 'vested' and our scientists are extremely careful to avoid conflicts of interest."

Tracey Brown, managing director of SAS, said the booklet's emphasis was on contributors' scientific background.

"They were not seeking to advance any commercial application of GM technology, but to set research in the context of other plant-breeding research and history," she said.

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