GM dialogue project abandoned

Ministers have announced the Food Standards Agency’s GM dialogue project will not continue in its current format.

The FSA set up the steering group to organise a public dialogue on the use of genetic modification, but was accused in May 2010 of spending £500,000 on a PR exercise on behalf of the GM crop industry, by one of it’s own members.

Helen Wallace, director of campaign group GeneWatch UK, stepped down from the group saying she was convinced the “FSA process was set up from the outset to provide free reputation management to the GM industry at taxpayers’ expense”.

In a statement released on Friday, University and Science Minister David Willetts said: “The GM dialogue project will not continue in its current format. However, it’s vital to engage people of all ages on scientific issues, so that they have a real say about developments which can affect all of us.

“Instead we are taking this valuable opportunity to step back and review past dialogues on GM and other areas of science to ensure we understand how best to engage the public over such issues.”

The details of the government’s policy on the use of GM technology in food and agriculture was still being determined. But all policies would be based on robust evidence and developing effective and appropriate public engagement will need to be an element of this, the statement said.

The GM dialogue project was being co-ordinated by the Food Standards Agency following a request by the previous government, with the aim of discussing consumers’ views of the risks and benefits of GM. Following the change in government, ministers had been asked if they wanted to continue with the project.

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