Background briefing on farm scale evaluations is media manipulation (16/5/2003)

16 May 2003

Background briefing on farm scale evaluations is media manipulation
Next Tuesday the Science Media Centre will provide a platform for scientists working on the UK Farm Scale Evaluations to defend the importance of their work to the media. The event is being called a BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON FARM SCALE EVALUATIONS (see below).

The Science Media Centre claims to represent the "voices" of the scientific community. It also says it aims to ensure "that the public gets access to all sides of the debate about controversial issues." It says it strives "to promote a breadth of scientific opinion - especially where there are clear divisions within science".

But on GM crops and the FSEs there are no divisions, apparently. The "voices" presented by the SMC are entirely one-sided.

Clearly, this is an exercise in media manipulation from an organisation which within a matter of months of its launch was being accused of operating "a sort of Mandelsonian rapid rebuttal unit", and of employing "some of the clumsiest spin techniques of New Labour". These claims arose out of the SMC's "secret campaign to descredit" a BBC drama relating to GM crops (see: Lobby group 'led GM thriller critics', The Observer Sunday June 2, 2002).

Now the rebuttal unit is gunning for criticism of the FSEs, as in the report published in late-March 2003 by Friends of the Earth, 'Science as a Smokescreen':

In order to achieve its goal, the SMC, whose funders include Astra Zeneca, Dupont, and Pfizer, is providing a media platform for "independent" scientists like Professor Chris Pollock of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER), which has had contractual and financial relationships with AstraZeneca and Aventis, and Prof. Joe Perry of the Rothamstead Experimental Station with its multiple commercial tie-ups with biotech corporations like Monsanto.

Prof Perry argues that the production of herbicide resistant GM crops accords with the will of God. He also claims "scientists have no agenda except to get to the truth". This, he says, creates "a chasm of thought" between scientists and campaigning organisations, like Friends of the Earth, who - in the words of logging-industry front man Patrick Moore, whom Perry quotes approvingly - have agendas "more to do with class warfare and anti-capitalism than the actual science of the environment." .pdf

Perry's claims of agenda-free science are in perfect accord with those of the SMC's founder Susan Greenfield who has written that, "The SMC is unashamedly pro-science but it is also independent of any particular agenda." According to Greenfield, "That means the SMC will provide access to the wide spectrum of scientific opinion on any one issue. We can provide an anti-GM scientist and a pro-GM scientist... etc, etc."

But when has the SMC ever provided access to "an anti-GM scientist"?

And as for being free of any particular agenda, Perry and co's platform is being organised by Fiona Fox, the SMC's director, who is known to be part of the Living Marxism network that equates environmentalists to Nazis and which eulogises GM crops and cloning and wishes to see no limitations placed upon them. This network also has a long history of infiltrating media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote its own agenda. (see Strange Bedfellows
WHEN? TUESDAY 20TH MAY 2003, 11.00AM

Dear Friend,

Scientists working on the UK Farm Scale Evaluations describe their work as one of the biggest ecological experiments in the world and point to the trials as a model way of measuring the impact of modern farming techniques on the environment.

Yet this excitement about the FSEs as a scientific experiment has often been lost in the polarised debate about GM crops.

In the run up to the launch of the trial results later this year, the Science Media Centre has invited three of the scientists most closely involved to describe the wider significance of the experiment and answer questions including:

*       What are the trials going to tell us?
*       Why couldn't they be carried out in a greenhouse?
*       Why do scientists believe this is one of the most ambitious ecology experiments ever done?

Speakers include:

Professor Chris Pollock, Research Director, Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, and Chair of the GM Crop FSE's scientific steering committee  

Professor Les Firbank, is a plant ecologist working for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.  He is the co-ordinator of the Research Consortium that carries out the Farm Scale Evaluations .

Professor Joe Perry, a statistical ecologist at Rothampstead Research who has taken a leading role in the design of the trials and analysis of the data

For further information please contact Fiona Fox on 0207 670 2981
Fiona Fox
Science Media Centre
The Royal Institution
21 Albemarle Street
London W1S 4BS
Tel: 020 7670 2981
Fax: 020 7670 2950
Email: [email protected]
Charity No 227938

The Royal Institution of Great Britain
21 Albemarle Street
Tel: 0207 409 2992
Fax: 020 7670 2920
[email protected]
Registered CharityNumber 227938


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