Exposed: Labour's real aim on GM food

THE Government's campaign to convince the public that it is determined to protect them, and the environment, against risks from GM crops is a cynical public relations exercise. The real intention is to buy time for industry to develop the crops - and save ministers' faces.

The Independent on Sunday has been passed a confidential document from the office of Cabinet Office minister Jack Cunningham which provides the focus, and most damning description yet, of ministers' objectives in the controversy. It flies in the face of an assurance to the Commons by Mr Cunningham, who is in charge of co-ordinating GM policy, that the Government's "overriding duty is to protect the public and the environment".

It also reveals that the Government is trying to enlist "eminent scientists" to "trail" its public relations "key messages" - even though Mr Cunningham late last week assured the Independent on Sunday that "there is no spin- doctoring exercise with scientists".

Sent to ministers, officials and top aides to Tony Blair just over a week ago by Mr Cunningham's private secretary, the document lays out an astonishingly detailed strategy for spinning, and mobilising support for, the Government's announcement of new measures last Friday. These include establishing two new quangos to oversee GM food and crops; "tough new guidelines" to manage their cultivation; and considering monitoring the effects on health.

The document says it is "important" that ministers "adopt a corporate approach to the announcement" and are clear on what they want to achieve from it. One of the objectives is "to begin to gain acceptance to the view that industry should be given time to develop and demonstrate possible benefits from GM products".

The other objectives are "to demonstrate loudly and clearly that the Government does have a grip on this issue" and "to reassure, and to knock down some of the myths ... by emphasising that the Government is listening to the public, taking steps to boost the protective arrangement, and is committed to a policy of openness and involvement". Mr Cunningham assured the Commons that the Government's "overriding duty" was the protection of public health, yet the document contains just one reference to "protective arrangements" - and that in a spin-doctoring context.

The document adds that last week's attacks on the work of Dr Arpad Puzstai - which suggested that GM potatoes harmed the health of rats - by the Royal Society, a Commons select committee and a advisory body, would give "his peers a legitimate opportunity to comment on the basis of his work and provide a platform for them to trail the Government's Key Messages".

It adds: "The Office of Science and Technology is compiling a list of eminent scientists to be available for broadcast interviews and to author articles. These individuals should be alerted and be prepared to offer comment."

The Government has been attacked previously for trying to get sympathetic scientists exposure in the media, but this is the boldest admission so far that it is trying to co-opt them as part of its PR strategy.

This move appears to contradict an assurance given by Mr Cunningham to the Independent on Sunday that there is "no spin-doctoring exercise with scientists".

Mr Cunningham said: "We have not been advertising for people to come and join in some government media campaign. It is for individual scientists to write their own articles and express their own opinions."

LEADING ARTICLE: PAGE 28

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore