GeneWatch PR: New approach to science and technology needed: GeneWatch UK publishes report on Government's response to GM debate.

<p>Embargoed until 00:01 Thursday 24th June 2004.</p>
<p>Today, GeneWatch UK publishes a report which evaluates the Government's response to the public debate on GM crops and foods (1). The report finds that in its GM policy announcement and response to the public debate (2), the Government has paid no attention to concerns expressed by people about how GM technology is being applied and the lack of public benefit. Nor has it addressed mistrust in Government and multinational corporations. Whilst pointing to possible benefits in the future, the Government did not indicate how these might be achieved.</p>
<p><strong>The report's findings include:</strong></p>
<li>addressing concerns about the purpose of using GM crops would need a realignment of the direction and control of the technology. Unless this takes place, it is unlikely that people will feel reassured about the risks the technology brings;</li>
<li>it might be possible to influence the products emerging from biotechnology through science policy and intellectual property rights, but this was not considered; </li>
<li>the Government could have considered ways of shaping biotechnology research in the public interest and engaging in intellectual property rights debates internationally to ensure equitable access for the poor, but it chose not to do so; </li>
<li>the Government could seek ways of engaging people more in shaping the public research agenda for food and farming, but did not do so.</li>
<p>“The Government claims there will be ‘jam tomorrow' from GM technology as a justification for GM crops today. But they have no way of making this happen”, said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director and author of the report. “Allowing commercial interests to dominate science and technology, will leave us with no truly independent science base to consider questions of importance to the public and the kinds of products they might welcome.”</p>
<p>Next week, the Government is likely to publish its new science and innovation strategy following a consultation in the spring of 2004 (3). This is expected to emphasise increasing links between business and public sector researchers in universities and research institutes. </p>
<p>“In its consultation paper on science and innovation, the Government acknowledged that there should be greater public engagement with scientific research and innovation. This will have to be substantial if the mistakes of the GM food issue are not to be repeated” said Dr Sue Mayer. “The GM debate showed that there needs to be a serious increase in the public interest dimension of the science and innovation agenda to balance to those of business interests. If this doesn't happen, public confidence in science is likely to evaporate”.</p>
<h2>Further information:</h2>
<p>Please contact Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office) or 07930 308807 (mobile)</p>
<h2>Notes to editors:</h2>
<li>‘Avoiding the difficult issues'. A GeneWatch UK report on the Government's response to the ‘GM Nation?' public debate. Available on the <a href="">GeneWatch</a> website. </li>
<li>Secretary of State Margaret Beckett's statement on GM policy. 9th March 2004. Available on <a href=""></a>. The GM dialogue: Government response. DEFRA, Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly and DOE, Northern Ireland. 9th March 2004. <a href=""></a></li>
<li>“Science and Innovation: Working Towards a Ten-Year Investment Framework”. <a href=""></a></li>

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