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Sunday, February 14, 1999 Published at 23:28 GMT


Science minister 'linked to GM food firms'

The government is refusing a moratorium on GM products

Tories are calling for the science minister, Lord Sainsbury, to resign in the escalating row over genetically-modified (GM) foods, because he is "an advocate" of GM products.

The BBC's Carole Walker: "Tories are targeting Lord Sainsbury"
Senior Conservatives are concerned about the minister's links to the family-owned supermarket chain Sainsbury - which stocks some GM foods - and former investments in two companies with interests in GM products.

The government has refused calls for a moratorium on GM food research despite the publication of a report on Friday backing previously discredited research that suggested GM foods could be harmful.

[ image: Lord Sainsbury:
Lord Sainsbury: "Conflict of interest"
Speaking to GMTV's Sunday programme, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary John Redwood said that the government should have a science minister "who is seen to be independent".

"David Sainsbury made up his mind on these issues years ago and he's an advocate for this kind of technology. The government has got to be above those interests," he said.

The government insisted that there was no "special treatment" for companies researching or developing GM products and dismissed Tory concerns about Lord Sainsbury as "slurs and smears".

John Redwood: "Does this make sense for our food safety?"
Cabinet "enforcer" Jack Cunningham - who is also facing calls for his resignation over his handling of the GM foods row - told BBC News his fellow minister was "a man of complete integrity".

"He has no financial interests in these or other companies while he's serving in government," he said.

Speaking earlier on the Sunday programme, Mr Cunningham said that all shares held by Lord Sainsbury were in a trust fund.

Chris Dessent : "We are concerned that consumers are still not being told if products contain GM foods"
Mr Redwood responded, saying: "It's not a blind trust. David Sainsbury and the whole world knows that he has a big shareholding in the supermarket chain and we also know that he was an investor in two companies that are going to make money out of GM food."

The row over GM foods erupted on Friday after 20 leading scientists published a memorandum supporting the findings of Dr Arpad Pusztai, who was sacked by the Rowett Research Institute last year for expressing concerns about GM foods.

His experiments showed the brains and immune systems of rats were damaged by eating GM potatoes.

The row deepened on Sunday following newspaper claims that the Rowett Institute received £140,000 from Monsanto, one of the leading companies in the GM industry.

Supermarket chain Iceland has banned GM products, calling genetic modification the "most dangerous experiment in human history". The chain believes the products damage the environment.

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