Letters: GM crops `bias'

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Michael Meacher's intention to replace retiring members of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre) with more "pro-green" members (report, 12 April) and to bar scientists with current or recent links to the biotechnology industry from membership of this committee raises important questions.

Why does Mr Meacher not apply the same test of bias to members of environmental organisations, many of whom have expressed uncompromising opposition to GM foods, as he does to biotechnologists? Is there not a danger that in his zeal to remove all taint of special pleading from the biotechnology industry from Acre, the resulting committee will be not only intrinsically anti-GM foods but anti-science as well? What sort of an advisory committee would that be?

Professor Beringer's point about the difficulty of finding scientists who do not have some links with industry is well made. The policies of the previous government with regard to funding or, more correctly, withdrawal of funding from, academic research and the privatisation or partial privatisation of government research establishments have made it extremely difficult to find any scientists who can satisfy the "independence criteria" laid down by the environmental lobby. The present government has made some progress in redressing this situation but the problem still remains, and will do for years to come.

Finally, Mr Meacher's assumptions of ethical slipperiness and a lack of independent thought among biotechnologists are extremely offensive to the many practising scientists who attempt to maintain objectivity in an increasingly subjective world.

ROBERTA NICHOLS

Abingdon, Oxfordshire

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