Letter: Sainsbury hits back

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In January Friends of the Earth claimed that the Gatsby Charitable Foundation funds the development of GM food for J Sainsbury plc.

Wrong. Gatsby does not and has never funded development of GM Food for Sainsbury's.

On 22 January Friends of the Earth claimed I will be launching a video to convince shoppers that genetically modified food will do them no harm.

Wrong. A proposal was put forward in a report to Maff in 1998. I did not commission the report, I have never seen it, I have never discussed its contents and I understand Maff are not going to act on its recommendations.

On 25 January Friends of the Earth claimed that I was leading a plan to use supermarket loyalty cards to investigate the impacts of eating GM food.

Wrong. I have not been involved in any discussions along these lines.

On 19 February Friends of the Earth claimed that I used a visit to China and Korea to promote GM crops links between Britain, Korea and China and "visited various biotech bodies in China including the Institute of Plant Physiology in Shanghai".

Wrong again. The visit was undertaken to promote bi-lateral science links and covered a range of issues. I did not discuss UK GM food policy nor did I visit the Shanghai institute.

In his letter to you (11 March) Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, claims I took part in a discussion on GM food policy when I chaired a public meeting on the consultation on the biosciences.

Wrong. The minutes make it quite clear that no discussions of GM food policy took place.

Most recently I have been accused of making a loan to Diatech after I became a Minister and Diatech had been put into the blind trust.

Wrong. It is a matter of record that I had agreed and was contractually bound to make the loan and that I had paid the money before I became a Minister. The recording in Companies House of a charge over assets owned by Diatech was done after I had become a Minister, but this was an action taken by the trustee of the blind trust. Again, Friends of the Earth did not wait to check the facts before calling for my resignation.

The simple fact is that I have not taken any decision where I could have a conflict of interest. I have not broken the Ministerial code in any way, and I have not failed to register any interest I should have done.

On a separate point, Fran Abrams reveals ("Lord Sainsbury will head team promoting biotechnology firms", 12 March) that I am leading a task force in the DTI looking at biotechnology clusters. This was a published commitment in the Competitiveness White Paper and was announced in the House in December.


Minister for Science

Department of Trade and Industry

London SW1