Blair backs biotech - again! (27/5/2005)

Recently, the peculiarities of the British electoral system returned Tony Blair to power with the support of just 22% of those eligible to vote (ie almost 80% of British adults didn't vote for him).

The thing that made Tony Blair such a liability to his Party is that people do not trust his judgement on big issues nor his honesty when it comes to promoting his agenda.

Public distrust was chrystalised, of course, by the Iraq war, where Blair ignored a million people out on the street and instead backed Bush and hyped WMD. Since then, more than 100,000 people have been killed and no WMD have been found.

At the end of the election campaign, an apparently humbled Tony Blair made a point of emphasising that he was now listening to the public.

We don't think so! GM crops were resoundingly rejected in Blair's own national debate on GM crops. Every opinion poll shows public rejection of this technology, but still Blair doesn't get it.

But then with a biotech entrepreneur as his Science Minister and his Party's biggest backer, that's hardly a surprise.

The good news, of course, is that Blair is held in such poor esteem that his support is almost as good as the kiss of death!

PM: We must accept risks
By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent
The Independent, 27 May 2005

Britain was in grave danger of "blowing our chance" to become a world leader in biotechnology, Tony Blair warned as he called for a national debate on everyday risks faced by the public.

The Prime Minister, pointing to concerns such as genetically modified foods and the MMR jab, said: "We are in danger of having a wholly disproportionate attitude to the risks we should expect to run as a normal part of life."

Demanding an end to the "compensation culture", he promised ministers would reflect more before reacting to scandals or accidents.

The Government has pledged to spend GBP1bn on biotechnology by 2008, including on research on stem cells, with the aim of developing therapies for conditions such as cancer, Parkinson's disease and diabetes. "It is time to have a proper dialogue about how science and its risks are evaluated and reported. Biotechnology is probably the coming industry of the world," Mr Blair said in a speech in London to the Institute of Public Policy Research.

"Britain and Europe should be world leaders. We are in grave danger of blowing our chance. If we do, we will rue it bitterly."

The Government had a duty to be open in discussing such subjects, to produce its evidence and not exaggerate, he said. The media also had a responsibility in its reporting.

Every government decision involved "fine-grained risks and the balance of probability", Mr Blair said. "Unless we find a viable way of discussing these risks, a mature national conversation on important policy questions such as GM science will be impossible."

He also cited a report linking the MMR jab with autism that started a scare "despite the vast weight of evidence to the contrary".


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