EXTRACT: "It could also be interpreted as ignoring or manipulating public concerns in an attempt to 'sell' a policy favourable to commercial and industrial interests." - Scientists protesting at the Government's plan to hold another official GM debate
A great deal of public funding has already been spent on shaping public views on GM. Focusing on just one technological approach to food production means this proposed exercise is likely to encounter the same problems that dogged past consultations.
A recent Royal Society report observed that "dialogue (with members of the public) should start with the problem that needs to be addressed (global food security), rather than presupposing any particular solution".
The focus of the FSA project on GM agriculture alone seems to fly in the face of the views of Britain's premier academy of science. It could also be interpreted as ignoring or manipulating public concerns in an attempt to "sell" a policy favourable to commercial and industrial interests.
We need a broader debate over agri-food and food security problems, together with the many potential solutions: social, political and technological.
Dr Tom Wakeford
Director of Public Engagement, Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre,
Dr Les Levidow
Senior Research Fellow, Development Policy and Practice,
The Open University
Dr Tom MacMillan
Executive Director, Food Ethics Council
Professor Erik Millstone,
Science and Technology Policy Research,
University of Sussex
Dr Bronislaw Szerszynski
Centre for the Study of Environmental Change,
Professor Brian Wynne
Associate Director, Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics,
Dr Michel Pimbert
Director, Sustainable Agriculture Programme, International Institute for Environment and Development
2.Will our views on GM food be 'modified'?
Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2009
Stand by for yet another attempt to persuade a resistant British public to consume genetically modified food. The Food Standards Agency - the same quango that constantly condemns the organic produce that people really do want - is about to organise, at ministers' request, a "dialogue project" to see how consumers “can be helped to make informed choices about the food they eat”.
Tomorrow, the agency will announce the members of a steering group for the dialogue, which it says will "include stakeholders”¦ with different views of GM". In fact, it seems that only two of the 11 to be named are known to oppose the technology.
It brings back memories of the last time the Government tried this tactic, six years ago. Again, it held a public "debate", whose purpose one senior official told me - was to "dispel the myths" put about by "extremists in environmental groups".
The exercise sought to overturn public opinion that was running at three-to-one against GM, in preparation for starting planting modified crops in Britain. But by the time it had finished, opposition among those who participated had soared to 90 per cent, with the uncommitted becoming increasingly hostile the more they learned about GM.
Many of those who took part ended up seeing the debate as "window dressing used to cover secret decisions to go ahead with GM crop development".
That could not possibly be what is happening this time. Could it?