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Media 19: Why is John Innes Centre ‘winning’ £6m for GM research headline news – but not Government’s £445m?

A month after the event, the BBC has announced Gates Foundation funding for John Innes’ GM research – but fails to mention that this is minute compared with the British government’s contribution:

A team of British plant scientists has won a $10m (£6.4m) grant from the Gates Foundation to develop GM cereal crops. It is one of the largest single investments into GM in the UK and will be used to cultivate corn, wheat and rice that need little or no fertiliser. It comes at a time when bio-tech researchers are trying to allay public fears over genetic modification. The work at the John Innes Centre in Norwich is hoped to benefit African farmers who cannot afford fertiliser.

News? With no reference to genetic modification, this funding was first tactfully announced a month ago on the Gates Foundation website:

“Purpose: to test the feasibility of developing cereal crops capable of fixing nitrogen as an environmentally-sustainable approach for small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to increase maize yields – Date: June 2012”

To date it is not mentioned in the online news section of the John Innes Centre, which describes itself as ‘an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology’. 

Why does John Innes describe itself as ‘independent’?

Its website clearly says that more than 50% of its income is from UK government sources, with the majority – for ‘strategic funding’ – from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council [BBSRC.]  It is now the Norwich base of the Sainsbury Laboratory.

Its total income was not found online, but in May this year the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, announced substantial funding for the UK’s bioscience research base: John Innes Centre (JIC), Norwich – £42M   

BBSRC background 

BBRC’s website informs us that it is one of 7 Research Councils that work together as Research Councils UK (RCUK) – funded by the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Its budget for 2011-12 is around £445M, and it supports around 1600 scientists and 2000 research students in universities and institutes across the UK. 

Taking lessons from Goebbels?

PCU deplores media manipulation, designed to downplay the governmental support and funding for a technology while it repeatedly claims that the public is gradually finding the growing and consumption of GM crops more acceptable.


For those new to the subject we recommend the GMO Myths and Truths report

Published by Earth Open Source, a not-for-profit organization, it was researched and written by Dr Michael Antoniou, reader in molecular genetics and head, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London School of Medicine, London, UK,  Dr John Fagan, founder and chief scientific officer of one of the world’s first GMO testing and certification companies who earlier conducted cancer research at the US National Institutes of Health and Claire Robinson, MPhil, who has a background in investigative reporting and the communication of topics relating to public health, science and policy, and the environment.

Their summarised points are listed on a sister website.