Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ridley the GM supporter vs. Ridley the green farmer?

Running with the hare, or the hound?

Guy Adams' article yesterday, "The Frankenfood Conspiracy", details the tactics used by the Big Three companies behind genetically modified food.

As with so many other aspects of public life, it seems that decisions are now influenced not by electoral or opinion polls, but by commercial interests that know how to gain the ear of political power.

An interesting nugget from this piece concerns the self-styled "rational optimist", member of the House of Lords and pro-GM writer Matt Ridley:

"Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s wife, Rose, is the sister of Viscount Matt Ridley, who is better known as the former chairman of Northern Rock. After presiding over the bank’s collapse, he has concentrated on his career as a pro-GM blogger and science writer.

"Has Ridley had formal or informal discussions with his brother-in-law the Environment Secretary on the subject of GM? DEFRA couldn’t tell me.

"Matt Ridley did not respond to our request for a comment."

In the House of Lords Register of Members' Interests, Viscount Ridley lists a shareholding in Blagdon Farming Ltd - the Blagdon Estate has been in his family since 1700. The farm is certified by the LEAF organisation, which promotes "environmentally responsible" principles and collaborates with (among others) the RSPB, WWF, Waitrose and the Crop Protection Association. The Blagdon Farm Shop says, "We only sell food that has been produced by farms that are either organic or follow traditional farming methods, that are kind to the natural environment."

Very reassuring.

On the other hand, Ridley is also a shareholder in California-based genetic research company Illumina Inc, which includes "agrigenomics" among its fields of interest; and Greggs, the UK bakery shop that has more outlets here than McDonald's. Food for thought...

He is also an "occasional speaker" (three times between February and April this year) via Chartwell Partners. The speeches were:

1. When Ideas Have Sex
2. Reasons To Be Cheerful: How Prosperity Evolves (video)

... and (3) a talk at Suboptic 2013, summarised in part thus (on page 5):

"The secret of human prosperity is that everybody is working for everybody else. In this talk Matt will explore the ways that the cross fertilisation of ideas leads to prosperity-enhancing innovation, drawing an analogy with the way that the recombination of genes leads to genetic innovation..."

The reader might be forgiven for thinking that there is some possible inconsistency with being a landowner whose family farm makes much of its "organic/traditional/environmental" values, and being a journalist, writer and speaker who advocates the benefits of genetic research in feeding us all.

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