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Get Sainsbury!

genetix | 15.04.2004 11:56 | Bio-technology

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, unelected minister for trade and industry, on the Sci-Bio Committee, responsible for national bio-tech policy, despite massive interests in the industry.

What a Twat!
What a Twat!

ne reason Bayer shareholders may feel aggrieved by the failure of Chardon LL to achieve profits for them could be the failure of their friends in strategic places to come up with the political goods that would railroad GM crops into a resistant market. A key factor could have been the presence of Lord Sainsbury of Turville, unelected minister for trade and industry, on the Sci-Bio Committee, responsible for national
policy on biotechnology including GM crops and foods. It all began in September 1997 when David Sainsbury gave Labour its biggest ever single donation. On October 3 1997 he was made a life peer by Blair and a year later became Minister for Science. By 2003 he had given over #11 million to the Labour Party.
Well known for his support of GM technology he established and funds the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre in Norwich whose head, Professor Jonathan D. G. Jones FRS, was a signatory of the letter to Tony Blair from 114 scientists deploring the government's lack of support for GM.

This lack of support includes a 300% increase in govenment funding of the Sainsbury Laboratory to #800,000 p.a. via the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council, an extra #50m from the DTI to the BBSRC since Sainsbury was Minister, #743,000 from the DTI to Plant Bioscience Ltd (a John Innes Centre offshoot), and 5 scientists on the government's Science Review Panel with direct links to Sainsbury's investment and research empire.

The Science Review Panel assessed the results of the FSTs. A Sunday Times science report claimed that scientific studies authored by researchers with possible conflicts of interest are "fatally flawed". These conflicts go to the heart of government and the process by which it has reviewed the scientific safety of GM technology.

One example can be seen in the paper published by his chum Prof. Perry et
al. on Nature's website. The paper was clearly designed to undermine the
conclusions of the government's Environmental Audit Committee's report published the same
day. It is highly speculative in supporting its claim that there would be a marginal environmental benefit from GM maize. It was so speculative that the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee
dismissed it as "neither robust nor particularly credible science".

Another glaring conflict of interest concerns his blind trust investments, which would make millions if the FST results had led to the commercial growing of GM crops. Sainsbury's blind trust contains shares from a number of companies, including Diatech Ltd and Innotech Investments, as well as his 13% stake in the J Sainsbury supermarket chain. Between February 1998 and March 1999 Innotech was part of a consortium reported to have invested #8m in Paradigm Genetics, now worth about #3m to Innotech.

In November 1999 Paradigm signed a deal with Monsanto, which is paying it
#30m and up to #9m more in performance bonuses, to work on novel genes.
Paradigm will also get royalties if any of the genes are used in commercial
products. This year Monsanto confirmed it was adding some genes discovered by Paradigm
to its next generation of commercial crops. If such crops are approved in
Europe, Paradigm genes could soon be in food sold in British supermarkets.

In short, Sainsbury heads a government department that gives money to the Sainsbury Laboratory (via the BBSRC) on whose board is the man who runs Diatech, currently held in a blind trust. Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, told the BBC, "In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for
what it is, a form of corruption of the political process."

So, with Sainsbury's influence over the Science Review Panel, his investments in GM development, royalties from their commercial application, and profits from selling GM food in his shop, Bayer's shareholders could be forgiven for thinking their investment was in safe hands.