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UK Chief Scientist Misrepresented Over GM

"Britain must launch GM food revolution, says chief scientist" was the headline of an article in The Guardian (6 January 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/06/gm-food-revolution-government-scientist). The article, written by John Vidal and Felicity Lawrence and based on a paper "seen by the Guardian", reported that the government's chief scientist Prof. John Beddington "will warn today" at an Oxford farming conference that Britain "must embrace" both GM crops and nanotechnology "to avoid catastrophic food shortages and future climate change."

However, on 9 January, The Guardian published a letter from Prof. Beddington (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/09/gm-food-farming-supermarkets-ombudsman) stating categorically: "Your article misrepresents my position and my paper …. The paper makes no mention of GM and I have not said that Britain must launch a GM food revolution." It went on to say: "GM technology is not something that should be simply accepted or rejected", the question is what problems in agricultural production it can solve.

So what's going on? Did the journalists completely misunderstand the paper? Or was the paper they saw ahead of time not what was actually presented? Is it possible that Prof. Beddington's staff - at the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs perhaps - are much keener on GM than he is, and wrote a speech for him that was leaked ahead of time to The Guardian? Could it be that Prof. Beddington, after seeing the prepared speech, changed it out of all recognition? Unfortunately, his actual speech has not been reported anywhere.

Article first published 05/02/10



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