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Now leading academic resigns from FSA
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
The Daily Telegraph, 2 Jun 2010
*A leading academic has resigned from the Government's food watchdog in protest at the use of taxpayer's money to promote pro-GM 'propaganda'
Professor Brian Wynne was vice chairman of a steering group set up by the Food Standards Agency to gauge the public mood on genetically modified (GM) food.
But he said the public consultation was "rigged" from the start in favour of the controversial new technology.
"It is another arm of propaganda to try and push the opinion of the British public in the right direction. In that sense it is in line with so much public policy in Britain that assumes the public is anti-science," he said.
Prof Wynne, a sociologist at Lancaster University, is the country's leading expert on public engagement with science and has also advised House of Lords and EU committees.
He was vice chairman of a steering group of 11 experts appointed by the FSA in November 2009 to begin a dialogue with the public on the growing use of genetically modified crops in our food.
The purpose of the steering group was to try and find out consumer views of so-called "Frankenfoods" as more GM products appear on supermarket shelves.
Recent surveys show a third of the population are against the technology, even though most of the meat eaten in this country is already from animals fed on GM. Government ministers have backed the new technology and there are ongoing trials in Britain although no crops are grown commercially.
Prof Wynne said within a few months it became clear that the consultation was "rigged" to soften up public opinion on GM.
"Apparently No. 10 was lobbied by the food industry on GM, the so-called public dialogue was agreed to and passed onto the FSA," he said.
Prof Wynne said that he resigned when it became clear that the consultation was biased in favour of GM.
He said that the focus on science rather than corporate control of seeds, environmental concerns or food safety meant that the concerns of the public will not be heard.
"It is as much about pushing the public into a particular perspective as it is about listening to the public and finding the right kinds of information," he said.
The steering group has a budget of around GBP500,000 to carry out the public consultation in what Prof Wynne described as an "abuse" of public money.
"I am not prepared by default to aid and abet this kind of systematic failure of institutional integrity in what is a crucial public arena, involving deep questions of science and public good," he added.
Earlier in the week another member of the group Dr Helen Wallace, Director of the non-governmental organisation Genewatch, resigned in protest at the FSA's allegedly close links with the agri-chemical industry.
"Taxpayers will be shocked that the FSA is blowing public money on a PR exercise on behalf of GM companies," she said.
The Food Standards Agency insisted the dialogue will be balanced.
"At its meeting last week, the Steering Group affirmed its commitment to holding a well-balanced dialogue with members of the public about the issues surrounding food produced with the aid of genetic modification. This dialogue presumes no particular outcome," a spokesman said.