Dr Bill Macfarlane Smith has a background in plant breeding and genetics and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Scottish Crop Research Institute at Invergowrie, near Dundee. He is also part of the biotech-industry funded lobby group CropGen. According to his CropGen profile he has also 'served on a number of industry and government committees on crop production and improvement.'
Prior to retirement, he was SCRI's Head of Scientific Liaison and Information Services (SLIS), part of whose remit was promoting the SCRI and its work wherever appropriate opportunities presented themselves, including via public meetings and the media. But under MacFarlane Smith, and the SCRI's pro-GM directorJohn Hillman, the SLIS remit of promoting the SCRI and its science became synoymous with promoting GM crops.
Thus, when John Hillman fiercely attacked organic farming in the SCRI's annual report, this was widely publicised thanks to an SCRI press release:Leading expert reopens GM food debate (Scottish Crop Research Institute, Feb 2000). Macfarlane Smith's media work alsogave rise to such headlines as, GM Food Can Help Economy Says Scientist and GM Crops Could Solve Food Supply Problems.
In one of these articles Macfarlane Smith complains about 'scare-mongering' over GM crops and ' "scurrilous statements" to the effect that scientists are prepared to prostitute the facts about GM food, because they are being paid by commercial companies with a vested interest in profiting from the technology, he says: "Anybody who did that would be destroying his or her career. We have nothing to hide..." '
A New Statesman article, however, suggested MacFarlane Smith and the SCRI were less than open about their corporate and lobbying connections:
'Then there is the respected, and largely government-funded, Scottish Crop Research Institute. Its director, John Hillman , made an outspoken attack on organics in the institutes latest annual report. Hillman was not available for comment but the institutes spokesman, Bill McFarlane Smith, said: We are absolutely independent, and seen as independent. He would not, however, name the institutes corporate donors, nor did he mention that Hillman is on the board of the BioIndustry Association, which lobbies government and promotes the biotechnology industry.' ( Scientists gang up on organics )
Although the SCRI, like other bio-science institutes in Britain that receive public funding, bind its employees via contract clauses not to become involved in controversies over 'biotechnology', MacFarlane Smith is an example of how this standard is only actually applied to employees and Fellows wishing to raise concerns about genetic engineering. Those like MacFarlane Smith who wish to actively lobby for GM crops, far from being 'gagged', receive institutional support even when acting as part of an industry funded lobby like CropGen. CropGen's press releases describe him as, 'Bill Macfarlane Smith of the Scottish Crop Research Institute and CropGen'.