Alan Dewar

Dr Alan Dewar is Head of Entomology at Broom's Barn, a division of Rothamsted Research , formerly known as the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR), which has employed a number of avidly pro-GM scientists including ones who have simultaneously worked for the biotech industry lobby group CropGen. IACR/Rothamsted Research has had DuPont, Novartis, Syngenta and AgrEvo (which became part of Aventis CropScience, and later Bayer) amongst its 'Commercial Partners'.     

Dr Dewar has worked at Broom's Barn since 1984. Broom's Barn focuses on agricultural research and development in sugar beet. Although financed principally through the sugar beet industry, it also undertakes work directly sponsored by commercial companies. Dewar and another Broom's Barn scientist, Dr Mike May, both hit the headlines in 1999 when The Guardian ran a story Test experts paid by GM firm about a conflict of interest between their leading role in the UK Government's GM Farm Scale Evaluations and they're having already been commissioned by one of the companies whose crops they were testing for the department of the environment. Dewar and May have also undertaken research for Monsanto.    

In January 2003 Dewar and May were among the authors of 'A novel approach to the use of genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops for environmental benefit' (Proceedings of The Royal Society B, 270 (1513), 335-340). According to their co-author and Brooms barn's director, John Pidgeon, 'This is the first time research has shown that GM herbicide-tolerant crops can be managed for environmental benefit.'  But, in fact, this Monsanto-supported research was just the latest to be presented in this way by scientists from Broom's Barn.

Five years earlier in 1998 Monsanto conducted press tours of GM crop trials with late-growing weeds run by Dewar and May, provoking a lot of positive publicity about the environmental impact of Monsanto's GM sugar beet. Dewar was quoted as enthusiastically saying, 'It was obvious to see that the weedy plots were heaving with life.' The Times ran the headline, 'Modified crops help man and wildlife', and told its readers,  'Genetically engineered crops can save farmers money, reduce chemical spraying and create a better habitat for birds and insects, scientists claimed yesterday.' When, nearly two-years later Dewar and May's paper on the research was finally published in Pest Management Science (April 2000), it turned out that the delayed herbicide application involved in the trials produced a massive yield penalty that farmers would be unlikely to accept.

Following on from the 2003 paper Mike May authored a further paper 'Economic Consequences for UK farmers of growing GM herbicide tolerant sugar beet (Annals of the Association of Applied Biologists, (2003) 142: 41-48 - May is General Secretary of the Association of Applied Biologists). May's research claimed to show major savings for farmers taking up GM sugar beet but working farmers belonging to the independent farmers' group, FARM, quickly spotted from their experience of beet-growing that the paper had exaggerated by as much as 75% the costs of a conventional herbicide regime. This had the effect of making the GM herbicide regime appear financially attractive. When compared to the real cost, there was little financial benefit from the GM crop and for many farmers with lower weed burdens a financial penalty. According to FARM, the paper also overlooked other costs associated with a GM crop which taken together would have the effect of seriously increasing rather than decreasing growing costs. (Broom's Barn research on GM savings vastly exaggerated )

For more on Dewar and May's research see:   

New study on Transgenic Sugar Beet    



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