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Science Media Centre Spins Pro-GMO Line

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A new report commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron suggests that GMOs have now been shown to be safe and that the United Kingdom may need to grow them in order to rely less on imports.

Since consumer campaigning got GMOs labeled and crop restricting implemented in the United Kingdom, Cameron will likely have a hard time convincing UK consumers that all is well. However, Cameron is getting help in that quest from a little known group called the Science Media Centre (SMC), which helped release the report to great fanfare. The Guardian and The Independent published prominent coverage of the report, and it was featured by the BBC. The Independent and BBC coverage were both entirely uncritical, quoting the scientists handpicked by the SMC for its reporters' briefing. The Guardian report was less glowing, but still quoted the SMC scientists and buried the reactions of critics below the fold. None of them mentioned that the report briefing was held by the SMC.

SMC calls itself an independent media briefing center for scientific issues. Critics, however, question its independence from the GMO industry -- despite the group's statement that each individual corporation or other funder may only donate up to five percent of the group's annual income -- and warn that the organization is headed across the pond to the United States to provide more GMO spin here.

What Is the Science Media Centre?

SMC was conceived in 2002, and enjoys close links with the British government. It is now based at the Wellcome Trust, one of the world's largest non-profit foundations ($22.5 billion in total assets as of late 2012), founded on the fortune of American-born pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome, whose drug company has since evolved to become GlaxoSmithKline. The Wellcome Trust gives the group more than the five percent of annual income at which other institutional funding is capped.

SMC received 34 percent of its nearly£600,000 in funding from corporations and trade groups for the fiscal year that ended March 2013, according to its website. Its current funders include BASF, Bayer, and Syngenta -- three of the world's biggest pesticide and GMO corporations -- as well as a number of agrichemical trade groups like CropLife International.   
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