Just a reminder that the ardent GM supporter, Professor Sir John Krebs, will be devoting this year's Royal Institution's Christmas lectures to the subject of food.
The lectures, which are are aimed at 11-14 year olds, will be broadcast on Channel Five television - NB not the BBC - between Christmas and New Year (26-30th inclusive) from 1915 -2000hrs.
On BBC Radio 4's 'Start the Week' yesterday morning, Sir John stated that GM was "just the same as plant breeding"
It is clearly misleading when traditional plant varieties are produced by cross-pollination among the same, or closely related, species to suggest that this is no different from GM, where genes from any class of organism (e.g. viruses, bacteria, unrelated plants, animals and even humans) can be (randomly) inserted into plants.
This is why the UK's Advertsing Standards Agency upheld complaints against Monsanto when it claimed that GM was just an extension of traditional breeding. ("ASA RULES THAT MONSANTO ADVERTS WERE MISLEADING"), http://www.genewatch.org/Press%20Releases/pr10.htm
If you want to attend Sir John's lectures, it costs GBP20 for adult non members of the Royal Institution and GBP10 for children non-members ( per lecture). Space for adults is apparently limited and there is no indication that there will be questions live on TV.
Book from here http://www.rigb.org/rimain/events/christmaslectures.jsp
See also the interactive website.
If you feel the content of the lectures is misleading, you can express your views here: [email protected]
or via http://www.rigb.org/rimain/events/contact.jsp
Pro-GM scientist to give TV lectures
John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian , August 23, 2005
Professor Sir John Krebs, who was appointed by the government in 2000 to be the first head of the independent Food Standards Agency, will devote the Royal Institution lectures to the subject of food. On past record, say his critics, he can be expected to argue strongly for biotechnology and advanced technologies to feed growing populations.
According to the Royal Institution, the now-retired Sir John "will ask whether new farming methods such as genetically modified crops will be the solution, or whether we will all have to become vegetarians". He will also consider the question: "Will the future bring us the chocolate bar that treats heart disease or the mood-enhancing potato crisp?"
Sir John, a distinguished ecologist who specialises in bird behaviour, made some enemies while at the FSA, endorsing GM foods at the start of his term and later claiming that there was no evidence that organic food was better than conventional food. He has accused GM sceptics of being "shrill, often ill-informed and dogma-driven".
His critics now fear he will use the influential Christmas lecture platform to promote his own beliefs. "Sir John has always gone out of his way to promote GM and attack organic foods. Children deserve to get a balanced message. We are sick and tired of being told by government and some scientists that GM food is necessary and the only way to avoid starvation", said Pete Riley, head of GM Freeze, which represents more than 120 British consumer and environment groups.
The Royal Institution, one of the pillars of the British scientific research establishment, specialises in the communication of scientific ideas and regards the prime-time televised lectures as some of its most important events of the year. In the past they have been strictly above politics.
"There is no intention to be political or controversial," said a spokeswoman yesterday. "He was chosen from a number of other scientists. It just happened that he wanted to talk about the future of food. The lectures have not been written yet. When they are, they will be looked at and considered. We would not allow anyone to say just anything," she said.
Lord Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, which certifies organic food and has a record of opposing GM, said: "My impression is that most kids are pretty repulsed about messing about with nature and that he will have a harder time persuading them that GM food is good than he had with Mr Blair. We live in hope that he's learned from the drubbing he got from the review of the FSA done by Baroness Dean".
Baroness Dean's review concluded that the FSA under Sir John had not fulfilled its criteria for being scientifically impartial when considering both organic and GM goods. "The vast majority of people consulted felt that the FSA had deviated from its normal stance of making statements based solely on scientific evidence. This view was expressed not only by stakeholders representing organic and GM interest groups, but by those who would be regarded as supporters and natural allies of the agency", it said.
Sir John was unavailable for comment yesterday.
The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Wednesday August 24 2005
In this report we suggested that this year's Royal Institution lectures to be given by Professor Sir John Krebs would be televised by the BBC. From this year the Royal Institution Christmas lectures will be on Channel Five as part of a three-year deal.
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