The Guardian apologises to Lord Sainsbury

17 February 1999

The Guardian apologises to Lord Sainsbury

By FWi staff

LORD Sainsbury appears to have ring-fenced his position as science minister after securing an apology from the newspaper which sparked the row over genetically modified (GM) crops.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, apologised to Lord Sainsbury after wrongly reporting that he owned a gene used in the genetic modification of food.

The row over GM crops started when the newspaper reported last week that 21 scientists backed previously discredited claims that rats fed GM potatoes suffered weakened immune systems.

The experiments which led to the claims were conducted by Arpad Pusztai, a scientist at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, who believes the damage was caused by a gene called the cauliflower mosaic promoter.

A front-page report in the newspaper yesterday (Tuesday) claimed the patent on the cauliflower mosaic promoter was owned by science minister Lord Sainsbury.

In fact, the gene is owned by the US biotechnology giant Monsanto.

“We accept that we misidentified the gene which Lord Sainsbury patented,” said Mr Rusbridger, in the newspaper today. “It was not one involved in Dr Pusztais research and we apologise for that error.”

However, Lord Sainsbury admitted that Diatech Ltd, the company he put into a blind trust before becoming science minister, does own the rights to a genetic enhancer developed from the tobacco mosaic virus.

Before I became a minister I owned a patent on a biotechnology product called a translational enhancer,” he told the newspaper in a statement.

“This patent was declared in my register of interests in the House of Lords before I became a minister and was transferred to my blind trust when I became a minister.”

  • Lord Sainsbury linked to GM company, FWi, yesterday (16 February, 1999)

  • See more