Professor Chris Lamb is director of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, and John Innes professor of biology at the University of East Anglia. He was previously Regius professor of plant science at the University of Edinburgh for 9 months and, before that, professor and director of The Plant Biology Laboratory at The Salk Institute for biological studies in La Jolla, California, which he joined in 1982.
Lamb, whose research interests include the genetic engineering of plant disease resistance, co-founded the plant biotechnology company, Akkadix, based in San Diego, California. Lamb is co-chair with Roger Beachy of the Akkadix Scientific Advisory Board.
Lamb took up the post of director of the John Innes Centre in October 1999, taking over from the JIC's acting director Mike Gale . His extensive experience of working with the industrial sector as well as substantial experience in dealing with private foundations were amongst his attractions. A BBSRC press release at the time noted his, 'extensive experience of knowledge transfer issues and of managing the interface between academic research and the commercial sector'. Professor Ray Baker FRS, the Chief Executive of the BBSRC, was similarly quoted as saying that Lamb had 'an excellent track record' in 'exploiting scientific know-how in applied and commercial projects'.
The JIC's annual report for the following year (2000-2001) states that amongst the JIC's continued building of collaborative links with industry is, 'Notably, Akkadix, an international gene discovery and functional genomics company'.
Lamb has been keen to defend GM crops, regularly writing letters to journals and newspapers. He and Roger Beachy were among 18 co-signatories of a letter to Nature Biotechnology ('Divergent perspectives on GM food,' December 2002), which attacked an article critical of GM crops. Lamb was subsequently identified as amongst at least 11 of the signatiories with undisclosed ties to companies that directly profit from the promotion of GM crops. Like Lamb, at least 4 of the co-signatories had direct links to Akkadix.
When the development charity ActionAid published a critical report on GM crops in May 2003, Lamb sent virtually identical letters of complaint to The Independent and The Guardian. Although Lamb would have appeared to most readers to have been simply an independent scientist, the first two praragraphs of his letters are identical with the opening section of a press release put out by the biotech industry funded lobby group, CropGen .
The claims made by Lamb in the letters, of benefits to farmers growing GM crops in developing countries, are also almost identical with claims made in the CropGen press release. The claims are also controversial.
Lamb and CropGen both claim, for instance, that GM cotton has delivered significant yield increases to farmers in India. In fact, GM cotton performed so poorly in its first year of commercial cultivation in India that a six-member panel set up by the Gujarat government concluded it was 'unfit for cultivation and should be banned'.