Anti-GM lobby anger at new Rothamstead director
THE appointment of a leading biotech scientist as head of the UK’s biggest agricultural research body has angered the anti-GM movement.
GM pioneer Professor Maurice Moloney’s was unveiled as the new director and chief executive of Rothamsted Research, by the institute’s governing body, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), last Friday.
Originally from Ireland, Pof Moloney led the Californian-based group that developed the world’s first transgenic oilseeds, which resulted in RoundUp Ready Canola and other novel crops.
He holds over 300 patents in plant biotechnology worldwide He is currently chief scientific officer of biotech specialists, SemBioSys Genetics, a company based in Calgary, Canada, he founded in 1994. He also has a successful academic career at the city’s university.
Prof Moloney said it would be a ‘great privilege’ to lead future scientific developments at ‘one of the most powerful engines for agricultural research in the world’.
BBSRC chief executive, Professor Douglas Kell said his experience would help Rothamsted to ‘capitalise fully on its scientific strengths and play its full role in delivering the UK’s R&D priorities in food security and sustainable bioenergy’.
But Soil Association policy manager Emma Hockridge said the appointment would be ‘bad news for UK agriculture’ if, Prof Maloney focuses Rothamsted’s research on GM.
She highlighted the recent IAASTD report, produced by over 400 scientists from across the globe, which concluded that GM had little to offer in meeting the major global food and farming challenges. “What Rothamsted needs is someone who will cover the research agenda of agro-ecological farming, as identified by IAASTD,” she said.
GMWatch described the appointment as ‘nothing short of a declaration of war on both public concern over GM crops and the conclusions of the IAASTD report’.
But BBSRC spokesman Matt Goode said Prof Moloney was ‘fully committed to leading the Institute’s broad research programme, which includes insect ecology, grassland ecosystems science and soil science’.
“While we believe that is important to fully investigate GM approaches we need to consider all ways of sustainably increasing food production and GM will not be the best technique in some circumstances,” he said.
He will take up post at the Hertfordshire-based research centre in April, succeeding Professor Ian Crute, who retired from the institute in 2009.