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9-Misc: GM Free Wales writes a formal complaint on UK Royal Society

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Formal Complaint / Request for Investigation: UK Royal Society
SOURCE: GM Free Cymru, UK
DATE:   Feb 5, 2003

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GM Free Cymru
Trefelin, Cilgwyn, Newport, Pembrokeshire,
South Wales SA42 0QN
Tel:  01239  820470      Fax 01239  821245

The Charity Commissioners
Harmsworth House
13-15 Bouverie Street
London EC4Y 8DP                    5th February 2003

Dear Sir/Madam,

Formal Complaint / Request for Investigation

We are seriously concerned about the behaviour of the following
registered Charity, and wish to enter a complaint on the grounds that it
has been acting outside its terms of reference and in breach of the
Charity regulations.

Charity Number 207043
Telephone 0207 839 5561

Email Address
Website Address WWW.ROYALSOC.AC.UK
Governing Document ROYAL CHARTERS DATED 1662 AND 1663
Area of Benefit NOT DEFINED
Area of Operation Charity Operates throughout England and Wales

Registration History 22 Jan 1963 Registered

What?   Education/Training
Who?  General public/Mankind

For some years now we have been watching the activities of this Charity
with increasing dismay, and have come to the view that its current
Trustees have brought the Royal Society into disrepute.

Its object is "the improvement of natural knowledge", and its prime
purpose appears to be the education of the general public in scientific
matters. However, it has an increasingly political agenda, and it is this
aspect of its current work that causes us particular concern. It has very
close links with the Government and with extremely large biotechnology
and other corporations; presumably most of its annual income of 39
million comes from these sources. This financial dependency alone might
lead one to wonder whether its scientific integrity and objectivity was
not being compromised.

We know that scientists from all disciplines have concerns about the
behaviour of the Royal Society, but we will concentrate on but one aspect
of its work: biotechnology and the science surrounding GM crops and
foods. Here, to our certain knowledge, the Royal Society has abandoned
any pretence of impartiality and has taken it upon itself to promote a
technology which is viewed with profound mistrust (if opinion polls are
to be believed) by the great majority of the British public. It is, in
our view, working against the public interest (and is therefore in breach
of its prime purpose) in promoting the interests of the GM multinationals
and the small group of scientists working in this field.

It is also directly promoting the agenda of the British Government by
taking a leading role in the "science debate" surrounding the planting
and possible commercialisation of GM crops in this country. It is not
just participating in this debate (this would be an acceptable activity
for a Charity) but actively promoting and canvassing the pro-GM agenda.
It was reported in the press recently that the Royal Society has now
offered its Proceedings B as the publication vehicle for the DEFRA
reports on the GM Farm Scale Evaluations programme; the reason is that
the peer-review process is not as tight as in other scientific journals,
and that the link between evidence and interpretation will not be so
carefully examined. Thus science is yet again devalued.

It is a disgrace that a body such as the Royal Society should be involved
in such shabby practice.

In addition, the Royal Society is increasingly involved in the active and
shameless promotion of bad science, using PR and "spinning" techniques
that are too close to propaganda for comfort.

A recent example is the extraordinary attempt by the Royal Society to
obtain maximum media coverage for a rather insignificant research paper
which is not yet published in their Proceedings B. The conclusions being
hyped up by the Royal Society (namely that a new herbicide spraying
regime for GM sugar beet, developed by the Brooms Barn Research Station,
would help sustainable agriculture and lead to increases of bird life in
the countryside) were not at all justified by the small-scale and
somewhat dubious results of the study. The RSPB and Soil Association have
already pointed out these shortcomings with some force.

Finally, the Royal Society is increasingly involved in the vilification
of scientists whose views it finds "off message", and in bullying and
pressurising respectable publications and their editors if they dare to
publish research of which the Royal Society disapproves. These activities
would be more in place in the Stalinist USSR of past decades than in
modern Britain, and they have caused widespread revulsion among those who
have been involved and those who have been looking in from the outside. A
group of very senior Fellows actually appears to be involved in something
akin to a "rebuttal unit" which has links across to other organisations
and which has the task of seeking to discredit inconvenient research on
GM crops and foods. This is both sinister and dangerous, and it brings
science itself into disrepute.

We ask you to undertake a very careful examination of the activities of
the Royal Society with a view to terminating its registration as a
Charity. It does not deserve to share this status with the thousands of
small charities across the land who struggle on, year after year, with
minimal funds but with the greatest of respect for the rules laid down by
the Charities Commission.

We append a number of documents which will provide background for the
claims which we make in this letter.

No doubt you will contact some of the organisations mentioned, and also
"The Guardian" and "Independent" newspapers who have a great deal more
material on file.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Brian John
for GM Free Cymru

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Pro-GM food scientist 'threatened editor'
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by Laurie Flynn and Michael Sean Gillard,2763,195226,00.html
DATE:   Nov 1, 1999

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Pro-GM food scientist 'threatened editor'
Top pro-GM food scientist threatened me, says editor

The editor of one of Britain's leading medical journals, the Lancet, says
he was threatened by a senior member of the Royal Society, the voice of
the British science establishment, that his job would be at risk if he
published controversial research questioning the safety of genetically
modified foods.

Richard Horton declined to name the man who telephoned him. But the
Guardian has identified him as Peter Lachmann, the former vice-president
and biological secretary of the Royal Society and president of the
Academy of Medical Sciences.

The Guardian has been told that an influential group within the Royal
Society has set up what appears to be a "rebuttal unit" to push a pro-
biotech line and counter opposing scientists and environmental groups.

Dr Horton said he was called at his office in central London on the
morning of Wednesday October 13, two days before the Lancet published a
research paper by Arpad Pusztai, the scientist at the centre of the GM

Dr Horton, editor of the Lancet since 1995, said the phone call began in
a "very aggressive manner". He said he was called "immoral" and accused
of publishing Dr Pusztai's paper which he "knew to be untrue".

Towards the end of the call Dr Horton said the caller told him that if he
published the Pusztai paper it would "have implications for his personal
position" as editor. The Lancet is owned by Reed Elsevier, one of
Europe's largest scientific publishing houses.

At the end of the call Dr Horton, 37, said he immediately informed his
colleagues and named the caller.

Prof Lachmann, a professor of immunology at Cambridge and a Royal Society
fellow for 17 years, confirmed that he rang Dr Horton on October 13 to
discuss his "error of judgment" in deciding to publish the paper.

He said he called Dr Horton after he had been emailed, "probably by the
Royal Society", a proof of the paper.

However, Prof Lachmann, 67, "categorically denies" making any threat to
Dr Horton during the call. "This is absolute rubbish, it would never have
crossed my mind," he said. "I didn't accuse him of being immoral. I said
there were moral difficulties about publishing bad science. I think I
probably suggested to him that he knew the science was very bad. They
[the Lancet] knew it was bad science, whether you call that untrue or
not, I don't think I used the word untrue."

Prof Lachmann's call to Dr Horton was preceded by a series of
controversial interventions by the society on the Pusztai affair. While
vice-president of the society, Prof Lachmann chaired a special working
group on GM plants for food use last year which endorsed their "potential
for real benefits" but recognised the need for further research and
monitoring. The Royal Society says that its report is now being used as a
"source document" by the government.

The Lachmann group report was published in September 1998, a month after
Dr Pusztai first expressed his concerns on British TV about their safety,
questioning government regulatory procedures. Dr Pusztai's employer, the
Rowett Institute, had authorised the interview, but it seized his data,
forced him to retire and banned him from speaking out.

In February, Prof Lachmann was one of the 19 Royal Society fellows who
attacked Dr Pusztai's work in an open letter. He and other key Royal
Society fellows have since been at the forefront of defending GM
technology and extolling its ability to solve world hunger and provide
safer food and medicines.

His extensive CV includes a recent consultancy to Geron Biomed, which
markets the animal cloning technology behind Dolly the sheep, and a non-
executive directorship for the biotech company Adprotech. Prof Lachmann
is also on the scientific advisory board of the pharmaceutical giant
SmithKline Beecham, which invests heavily in biotechnology. He denies any
conflict of interest, arguing that his expertise in the area qualifies
him to comment.

The first intervention came in March when the Royal Society, which does
not normally conduct peer reviews, took the unusual decision to
scrutinise Dr Pusztai's work.

A group of reviewers, whom the society refuses to name, concluded after
examining incomplete data that it appeared to be "flawed in many aspects
of design, execution and analysis".

Dr Horton wrote a Lancet editorial that month accusing the Royal Society
of "breathtaking impertinence". Prof Lachmann, who was not involved in
this peer review, nevertheless countered with a letter attacking the
journal's position as "absurd". Dr Horton published the letter in July.
At the same time, the Lancet was considering whether to peer review and
publish the now famous paper by Dr Pusztai and Stanley Ewen on the effect
on the gut of rats fed GM potatoes.

Dr Horton was also considering publishing a second research paper by
another team of scientists. They had looked at the same GM protein used
in Dr Pusztai's potatoes and found that it binds to human white blood
cells. The health implications must be further researched before the GM
protein is allowed into the food chain, the paper recommended.

Dr Horton said he never expected what would follow from his decision to
promote scientific debate by publishing both papers. He said there was
intense pressure on the Lancet from all quarters, including the Royal
Society, to suppress publication. The campaign, he said, was "worthy of
Peter Mandelson".

The Guardian has learned that these interventions are taking place in an
unusual context. According to a source the Royal Society science policy
division is being run as what appears to be a rebuttal unit. The senior
manager of the division is Rebecca Bowden, who coordinated the highly
critical peer review of Dr Pusztai's work. She joined the society in
1998, from the government biotechnology unit at the department of the
environment, which controls the release of genetically modified organisms.

The rebuttal unit is said by the source to operate a database of like-
minded Royal Society fellows who are updated by email on a daily basis
about GM issues. The aim of the unit, according to the source, is to
mould scientific and public opinion with a pro-biotech line. Dr Bowden
confirmed that her main role is to coordinate biotech policy for the
society, reporting to the president, Sir Aaron Klug. However, she and Sir
Aaron denied it was a spin-doctoring operation.

In May a leaked government memo outlined how its office of science and
technology was compiling a list of eminent scientists who were on message
to rebut criticism and underwrite the government's unequivocal pro-
biotech line.

The Guardian has established that the Royal Society was involved in
trying to prevent publication of the Pusztai paper. This intervention
intensified when it learnt the paper had been peer reviewed for the
Lancet by six scientists, Dr Horton told the Guardian.

The only reviewer arguing against publication was John Pickett of the
government-funded Institute of Arable Crops Research.

Prof Pickett said that when he realised that Dr Pusztai's paper had been
accepted for publication, he took his concerns to the Royal Society' s
biological secretary who told him the society was already preparing a
press release.

Five days before the Lancet published, an article appeared in a national
newspaper in which Prof Pickett broke the protocols of peer review and
publicly attacked the Lancet for agreeing to publish the Pusztai paper.
Two days after the spoiler article appeared, Prof Lachmann made his phone
call to the editor of the Lancet.

Dr Horton said the society had acted like a star chamber throughout the
Pusztai affair. "The Royal Society has absolutely no remit to conduct
that sort of inquiry."

Sir Aaron said he knew nothing about the phone call to Dr Horton and
whoever spoke to the Lancet editor was not doing so on the society's
behalf. However, he confirmed that the society had a proof of the Pusztai
paper before the Lancet published it.