Podium: We must support our GM food industry

From the presidential address by the chairman of Glaxo Wellcome to the British Festival of Science

AT NO stage in world history has there been such great potential in science and technology to make an impact on the everyday lives of so many human beings. At no other time has the exploitation of scientific and technological innovation been so central to economic prosperity as it is today.

The UK has fallen behind in the struggle to compete not only with the developed countries but with an increasing number of developing countries. They recognise the critical importance of sustained and strategic investment in education and research and development, to succeed in the rapidly changing global economy.

Today knowledge is the engine of economic progress. The key attributes we must develop are the knowledge, skills and creativity needed to create high-productivity business processes and high-value goods and services. We must develop a strong, knowledge-driven economy. The US's ability to harness the potential of new technologies should be a lesson to us all.

It is government's role to create the right climate, in terms of fiscal, regulatory and intellectual property policies and incentives, to enable us to prosper through science. We look to government to create this climate, and to provide support for science and technology, including a clear and well-communicated strategy.

In the recent past, government messages and actions have not always been consistent. A good example of this is the refusal to approve the Wellcome Trust's development of a biotechnology park alongside Hinxton Hall, which is a world-leading facility for genomic research. The Wellcome Trust is consequently looking elsewhere, overseas including, to find alternative suitable sites. A chance to create the infrastructure for exploiting our leading-edge science may have been missed.

We must ensure that the fiscal and regulatory frameworks encourage and do not hinder the exploitation of new and emerging technologies, if we are not to fall further behind the US or be caught by Germany, which has created a flourishing biotechnology sector. I support the call by the Bioindustry Association to establish a National Biotechnology Centre to encourage, co-ordinate and focus our efforts in developing our industry.

We need a well-informed and supportive public. The public are the consumers, workforce, taxpayers and technology-users of today. They have every right to know about and understand scientific and technological developments. The recent GM foods affair has shown what happens when this is not achieved.

There is no doubt that GM foods, and other scientific and technological advances, do give rise to issues that are rightly the concern of society, and that the public has a right to ask questions and expect answers. However the debate must be a balanced one and in this case the potential benefits of GM technology have not been properly emphasised and thus are not understood by the public.

It is now possible that the outcome of the present anti-GM-food campaign will be detrimental to this country. It will lead to a failure to develop new UK companies based on the technology developed here, a loss of technical expertise as funding by international companies is withdrawn, and disadvantage for British agriculture. What is certain is that development of the technology will continue elsewhere, and its full potential and rewards realised by our competitors.

The scientific community has the primary responsibility for increasing the public's understanding of scientific matters. Scientists must be prepared to answer the questions and explain their work and its impact. Silence is interpreted as secrecy, provokes suspicion and fuels concern.

The creation of greater scientific literacy in the wider community must be seen as an important goal for the Government, educationists, the scientific community, industry and the media.

Science and technology are critical for our survival. There is no question that the UK has the potential to prosper through its exploitation, but much needs to be done.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas