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BBSRC statement in response to Professor Howard Atkinson's remarks on BBC Radio 4 Farming Today - 29 July 2008

30 July 2008

BBSRC, who funded the GM potato field trial led by Professor Atkinson that is the focus of current debate about the security of crop trials in the UK, remains committed to public debate about GM agriculture. We have recently restated our position on GM research on crops and other plants and this includes support for research such as that conducted by Professor Atkinson.

It is unfortunate that Professor Atkinson chose the words he did to describe the actions of those who destroyed his field trial last year. The BBSRC-funded research that was lost was aimed at developing new disease-resistant potatoes for use in developing countries. The nature of Professor Atkinson’s remarks reflect the frustration scientists feel when work aimed at delivering a public good is destroyed by vandalism. BBSRC deplores those who act outside of the law to destroy legitimate research.

Experimental crops are an essential part of publicly funded research to find out precisely whether or not GM varieties can offer tangible benefits to consumers. Such experiments are conducted under strict regulations and in an open and transparent way, with results being published freely. Field trials are not conducted lightly and Professor Atkinson’s work will have been approved as relevant and strategically valuable before reaching this stage.

We also believe that the British public prefers money to be spent on exploring the potential for GM crops to help increase world food supplies, rather than on expensive security systems to protect legitimate and tightly regulated field experiments of such crops. It would be very sad if public funds had to be diverted to protect perfectly legitimate experiments.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £420M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


External Relations Unit