UK Govt accused of tinkering with science

Fears have grown over political tinkering with science, after a second member of the UK Government's food technology group resigned in protest at Government interference.

Professor Brian Wynne, vice-chair of the Government steering group on GM foods, today became the second member of the 11-person group to resign in just eight days.

Wynne's decision to quit follows the departure last week of Dr Helen Wallace, director of the thinktank GeneWatch, who voiced similar fears.

"A process that was barely credible has become a farce", Wallace said. "Taxpayers' money should not be wasted on a PR exercise for the GM industry."

The resignations have sparked fears that the £500,000 public dialogue over so-called 'Frankenstein foods' will be abandoned, after the Government's Food Standards Agency said it would ask the new coalition if its work should continue.

"There has been a major change in government," FSA spokeswoman Nathalie Golden told the Guardian newspaper. "It will need to be presented to ministers. It depends on the new government whether it goes ahead."

In his resignation letter, Wynne accused the FSA of having a "dogmatically entrenched" position in favour of GM technology, and said the consultation process amounted to little more than propaganda.

Controversy over the GM steering group follows concerns expressed earlier in the week by Professor Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society. Delivering the first of this year's BBC Reith lectures, Rees complained that Government showed little understanding of science and technology, and called for a wider debate within society.

Present in the audience at Rees's lecture was Professor David Nutt, who was sacked as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by the previous Labour administration, after casting doubt on the government's policy over the legalisation of cannabis.