Wednesday, February 17, 1999 Published at 01:51 GMT
Sainsbury: I will not resign
Lord Sainsbury: No conflict of interest, says DTI
Science Minister Lord Sainsbury has told the BBC he will not resign over the genetically modified (GM) foods furore.
They say there is a conflict of interest over his family firm's interest in GM foods. Lord Sainsbury also owns a company that holds a patent on a gene used in the GM process.
'Hounding is wrong'
He also stood aside from any decisions that had a specific effect on Sainsbury's.
He said: "If GM foods are being considered which could have a specific effect on Sainsbury's, then I will not attend those meetings."
Asked if he would resign, he said: "Absolutely not. I am very clear that I have acted totally, without any conflict of interest."
Lord Sainsbury earlier received the backing of Prime Minister Tony Blair who said the "hounding of him is unpleasant and wrong".
"Secondly, with GM food, this is a new science and a new technology so we should proceed with very great care and very great caution, and with a strongly regulatory process. That is precisely what we are doing," said the prime minister.
Mr Blair - who on Monday revealed that he ate GM food - said it was right for the government to resist the media and the "hypocrisy and total opportunism" of the Conservative Party.
'He is too close'
The prime minister said that "to rule out GM food altogether, to impose some ban would be extremely foolish".
The Department of Trade and Industry has said because of Lord Sainsbury's action there is no conflict of interest with his role as science minister.
But the Conservatives say it is further embarrassment for the government and reinforces the reasons why they think he should go.
Tory leader William Hague said: "The basic truth of the matter is that he is too close to that industry to be objective about these matters and we need ministers who are objective."
Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the prime minister should not have put Lord Sainsbury in a position where a conflict of interest arose.
The allegations came as a wide-ranging consortium of 29 groups, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, joined forces to call for a five-year pause before genetically modified crops can be grown commercially in the UK.
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