Among the fervent supporters of GM crops, none is more remarkable than Paul Ohm.
Ohm's enthusiasm for the technology and his antipathy to its critics was first drawn to the attention of fellow GM supporters in October 2003 when Prof CS Prakash, who edits the pro-GM AgBioView e-mailing list, headed an AgBioView bulletin with Ohm's strongly worded attack on those opposing GM crops.
Headed 'Disgusted', Ohm's letter had been taken from Britain's Daily Telegraph. In the letter Ohm lambasted the 'popular ignorance and prejudice' displayed by 'a large majority of people' who do not want GM crops grown commercially in Britain.
He went on to castigate these 'instinctive Luddites, sunk in the darkness of medieval superstition', who 'are always aghast when exposed to the light of scientific reason.' According to the Ohm, the public's belief that 'GM technology is driven more by profit than by public interest' is 'pure organic rubbish' - 'Profit and public interest, as most people know, are identical.' Ohm concluded, 'the Government cannot simply ignore prejudices that belong, like slavery, bear-baiting and homophobia, to a past age. It must strive, through intensive, compulsory education, to eradicate them for good.'
Ohm's letter drew a strong expression of support in a later AgBioview bulletin in which a subscriber wrote, 'Mr. Ohm, I completely agree with your disagreement with Britain's Luddites... like homophobia and slavery, the undercurrent of occult beliefs concerning GM food will fade into blasphemy. In the mean time, we must do everything in our power to expedite the process.'
What appears to have escaped Prof Prakash's attention, however, is that Paul Ohm's letter had not appeared in the Daily Telegraph's letters pages. Instead, it had been extracted from the Telegraph's 'Peter Simple' column , in which the writer Michael Wharton satirises the inanity, cliches and humbug with which supposed 'improvements' to the modern world are at times supported.
To this end, Wharton deploys a cast of grotesques, such as Dr. Lllewlyn Goth-Jones, the head of Malebolge pharmaceuticals - a division of the mammoth Nadirco Consortium; and Paul Ohm, 47, keen amateur technologist and simulated Concorde pilot, of Edgbaston.
The editor of GM WATCH commented at the time, 'There is an obvious parallel here. AgBioview deploys its own cast of grotesques - Prof Anthony Trewavas FRS, Dennis and Alex Avery, and Andrew Apel, all spring to mind - whose ludicrous rants and cliches are quite indistinguishable from those put into the mouth of Wharton's "disgusted" amateur technologist. Indeed, some Prakash grotesques - like 'Andura Smetacek' and 'Mary Murphy' - have proven just as fictitious as Wharton's 'Paul Ohm'. It's small wonder Prakash missed the joke. The domain he inhabits resonates happily with the deranged world of Peter Simple.'