Letter: BSE: The Ministry carries on with its experiment on the British public

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is not wholly accurate to describe the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), the Government's advisory committee on BSE, as "independent". We mean no reflection on its members, but SEAC is the creature of government ministers and officials. They choose its members and service its activities. Ministers are strongly placed to (mis)interpret its findings, as has arguably happened in the case of BSE.

The same goes for a number of highly significant "independent" advisory committees, which advise the Government on the safety of the food we eat, medicines we take, the environment we live in and the air we breathe. They are usually highly secretive and immune from any public or peer group review.

In our highly complex modern world, such bodies have outgrown their modest beginnings as mere advisory bodies. They are presented to us as "public watchdogs" and that, as we propose in our report Behind Closed Doors, is what they should become - public bodies, independent both of government and industrial interests.



Democratic Audit

University of Essex