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Media manipulation – 20: has the BBC joined the renewed corporate-political drive to impose GM crops?

Extracts from the complaint to the BBC about the Countryfile Report on GM Crops by Tom Heap, 15/07/2012, by Dr Rosemary Mason, MB, ChB, FRCA

The BBC (which is undoubtedly very influential with the public) has demonstrated support for GM technology. Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta are already hammering at Europe’s door. The EC and the EFSA have joined with them to force their crops into Europe (and on to a previously GM-suspicious UK).

Investigation was inaccurate, lacked impartiality and failed to declare conflicts of interest

Under the BBC’s charter, it is committed to achieving accuracy of reporting, impartiality and to declare conflicts of interest. The investigation of GM crops on 15th July 2012 was inaccurate, lacked impartiality and failed to declare conflicts of interest of some of the people interviewed. The whole presentation was an outrageous travesty of the truth, presumably fed to your journalist by the government and the agrochemical industry.

Meant to impress the public 

The journalist, Tom Heap, presented a so-called ‘in depth’ investigation of GM crops. He asked three questions. Will it be welcomed? Could it deliver us a healthy diet? Could it feed the world? He then went on to say that it had “gained the support of one of the world’s richest and most influential men”.

None of these statements were challenged by Heap . . . 

A superficial and biased series of sound-bites followed. First, Tom Heap marvelled over a purple tomato, cut into two by a glamorous-looking research scientist working at the John Innes Centre. She declared that they had incorporated two pigment genes that could prevent a whole gamut of age-related diseases; cancer, obesity, diabetes. She also said that they were going to develop a type of barley, with added zinc, that boosted the immune system.

Implication that anti-GM protesters are an irresponsible minority holding up real science  .  .  .

The only person the BBC allowed to speak against GM crops was Peter Melchett, Director of the Soil Association. He gave an account of why GM crops were not needed any more; there are better, newer technologies; conventional breeding techniques have advanced so much. However, it cannot have been by accident that the interview was preceded by archive footage of Melchett as a young man pulling out a GM maize crop . . .

The ‘independent’ expert Dr Charlie Clutterbuck had previously served on the Advisory Committee on Pesticides

Tom Heap said that 60% of the public in the UK were worried about GM ingredients in food and 71% thought it was important that retailers had policies not allowing GM ingredients. Dr Charlie Clutterbuck, an ‘independent’ food industry expert, emerged from a high street produce market. He looked disappointed. He said that traders were still saying they didn’t want GM. However, in a stage whisper, he said:

“Privately, they are saying one thing to government, but in public…they don’t want to be seen to be the first ones to go down this road.” Then he added, rather petulantly: “people are already eating GMO in the form of GM food supplied to cattle and pigs”.

Ed: See Clutterbuck: “Resistance is going to be a big issue  . . . Clearly there is a role for Genetically Modified crops (GM) here . . . There is a case that the government should spend much more on Integrated Pest Management and GM.”

Attempting to further influence the British public by misrepresenting the popular mood

Dr Mason noted that ten days later, on 25th July, the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme announced a new poll had shown that “Most Britons are in favour of GM crops.” It was on the front page of The Independent, with a report, from Andrew Grice, the Political Editor: “Dramatic change as two-thirds now support GM crop testing”.

With thanks to Ian Panton of GM Free Cymru who sent this information