Owen Paterson, the sacked environment secretary, claims his new right-wing think tank UK2020 is not funded by the GM industry.
The UK2020 founder “urged a revolt” against the “Green Blob” of NGOs and environmentalists while promoting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) today at the annual South African agricultural biotechnology media conference, which was hosted by the GMO-funded lobby group ISAAA.
ISAAA receives donations from both Monsanto and Bayer CropScience. But when asked yesterday by DeSmog UK if UK2020 has received any funding from the GM industry, press representative Beatrice Timpson of Media Intelligence Partners said “I can’t answer that”.
Timpson refused to explain why she could not answer questions about GM funding, before promptly hanging up the phone.
Update: Chris Bullivant, Executive Director of UK2020, has told DeSmog UK via email today, 24 February, that the think tank does not receive any funding from the GM industry.
This is not the first time Paterson has been coy about any potential relationship with GMO companies. He has been described as the industry’s latest PR man, “acting as cheerleader for the GM companies”.
Last April, while still a minister, Paterson refused a Freedom of Information Act request to supply details about meetings between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the GM industry trade body.
Defra led the push for genetically modified crops under Paterson’s leadership as environment secretary. Paterson has also been lobbying the EU to let Britain grow GM crops.
However, it was revealed that these efforts were carried out in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, which is financed by GM companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience.
Paterson is also the brother-in-law of Matt Ridley, a climate denier and genetic scientist. Ridley was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York, and is a visiting professor at the lab. CSHL has also received funding from Monsanto.
Paterson has been known to turn to his brother-in-law for help when it comes to politics and the environment. For example, Paterson gave a scathing attack on the coalition government’s climate change policies during his speech last October for climate denial charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s annual lecture held at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. This speech was written with Ridley’s help.
‘Get Right With Science’
Speaking at the industry media conference in South Africa today, Paterson argued that the only way to solve starvation is to “get right again with science. We need every possible tool available to meet this challenge.”
He ended his speech attacking environmentalists, saying: “Myth versus fact; Green Blob versus Green Revolution: There is literally no challenge today that is more important.”
“They call themselves humanitarians and environmentalists. But their policies would condemn billions to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. And their insistence on mandating primitive, inefficient farming techniques would decimate the earth’s remaining wild spaces, devastate species and biodiversity, and leave our natural ecology poorer as a result.”
However, Paterson’s statement seems at odds with his stance on climate change. He claims the risks of climate change are exaggerated and has called for the UK Climate Change Act to be scrapped.
But according to the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change presents “unprecedented risks” to the global food supply.
In its “most explicit warning yet” the IPCC says climate change has already become a small drag on overall global production, and could become a far larger one if emissions continued unchecked.
This article has been updated on 24 February 2015 to clarify that UK2020 has confirmed to DeSmog UK that it has not received funding from the GM industry.