Labour peers' cash for pro GMO influence in government (31/3/2006)

Labour peers' cash for pro GMO influence in government - SNP

Cash for GM? is the question that is being posed by Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson after the publication of the Labour Party loans shows that some of the most prominent backers of the party are also some of the biggest proponents of GM technologies.

While the main focus of Labour loans and donations has been on the peerages, Mr Gibson is becoming increasingly worried that science and agriculture polices are being decided by a few high profile, rich and unelected peers.

Lord Sainsbury is one of the Labour Party's biggest donors. He has been a peer since 1997 and as Government Science Minister, he is also a major investor in Biotech technologies.

Lord Drayson, it was revealed, gave GBP1.1 million to the party and was granted a peerage from Tony Blair in 2004.

Lord Drayson is tipped to become Lord Sainsbury's successor as science Minister. When he still headed his company ([he was also head of the] Bioindustry Association), Lord Drayson financially supported the pro-GM Science Media Centre as well as participating in the Pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science.

The other GM link is Sir Christopher Evans of Merlin Biosciences - a venture capitalist he is well known to have had close connections to large numbers of Biotech companies, so much so that he is known in some quarters as "Biotech King".

Mr Gibson said, "Just these three people show that the Labour Party are deeply indebted to these people and therefore are allowing Biotech and GM entrepreneurs shape the lives of millions of people throughout the UK."

"I am deeply worried about these connections and the power that unelected but monied people can have to shape people's lives and the future of the environment. The miracle cures and crops that were promised by the biotech industries have not materialized. However Lord Sainsbury (presumably with the consent of Tony Blair) sees fit to close down three centres which are vitaly important to long term research on climate change."

The signs for the future are not good, the Scottish Government will need to be strong in resisting any advance of GM farming technologies into Scotland.

However after parliamentary votes by Labour and LIB Dem MSP's to allow GM Maize to be grown and Ministerial consultations about separation distances between potential GM and non-GM crops , it is important that people mobilize against the kind of technologies that have left vast parts of South American farm land barren and useless."

Lord Sainsbury of Turville became a peer in 1997 and now frontbench spokesman in the Lords on trade and industry. Has given GBP6.5m to the party since 2001 - mainly in three big donations in 2002, 2003 and 2005

Lord Drayson became a peer in 2004 . Now a junior defence minister, was chief executive of Powderject Pharmaceuticals, makers of vaccines. Has given GBP1.1m.

Meanwhile back to the supermarkets. Isn't it interesting that Lord Sainsbury of Turville's personal and financial interests span biotechnology, food retailing, and driving UK government policy in relation to technology and trade?

He is simultaneously [6]:

*the multi-billionaire Science Minister in charge of promoting biotechnology at the UK's Department of Trade and Industry

*a member of the cabinet biotechnology committee (known as 'MISC 6') responsible for national policy on GM crops and foods

*a major personal investor in GM agricultural biotechnology

*a leading member of the UK supermarket giant 'Sainsbury' family (former chairman and major shareholder of J Sainsbury plc - personal and immediate family annual share dividend estimated at GBP36 million in 1998)

*a key advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair on GM technology

*a multi-million pound donor to the Labour Party (giving Labour its biggest single donation in September 1997 and more since) and made a life peer by Tony Blair 3 October 1997

As reported below Lord Sainsbury has just written a cheque to the Labour Party for GBP2.5 million to keep it afloat. He is the government's most prominent backer of GM technology in agriculture.

Lord Sainsbury's personal, political and financial interests span biotechnology, food retailing, and driving UK government policy in relation to technology and trade.

Money may not buy you happiness but can it buy influence in New Labour to end choice for organic and conventional crop production?

Contact: Rob Gibson 07879 674335

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive