Appendix 8 – Another Placement

THE IRRESISTIBLE RISE OF REBECCA BOWDEN

The row which developed over the work of Arpad Pusztai at the
Rowett Institute, brought to light, the beginnings of the organised
Dirty Tricks which New Labour and the DTI were willing to use in
order to defend the corporation with whom they were in bed. The
Royal Society had taken in large amounts of corporate funding during
the second half of the nineties receiving money from major corporations,
including those (eg) with major biotechnology interests like
Rhône Poulenc and Glaxo-Welcome.1

Outraged by what they saw as media ‘misrepresentation’ of the
experiments of Arpad Pusztai, the Royal Society established a ‘rebuttal
unit’ in 1999 to ensure that journalists more easily heard the wisdom
of its elders. Almost immediately, however, its activities seemed
to overstep the mark when it obtained Lancet proofs of Pusztai’s paper
and one Fellow called the journal’s editor.

It was always to be the case that Rebecca Bowden PhD, would end
up heavily supporting the cause of Genetically Modified everything.
But perhaps not so inevitable that she would end up managing the
organised opposition against the Governments science policy on
behalf of Lord David Sainsbury; that was more a matter of being in
the right place at the right time.

Bowden, who was born in 1970, got her first BSc Hons. degree in
Microbial Biotechnology in the School of Biological sciences at the
University of Liverpool. She stayed on at Liverpool to take a three
year Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded project
in the Department of Genetics and Microbiology University of
Liverpool on ecological impact of biological transfer of antibiotic
resistant genes within natural populations of bacteria in the soil environment.
She was awarded her PhD in 1995.

The NERC who Bowden was sponsored by work closely with
amongst others the BBSRC and Astazeneca UK.2 Its evident lack of
concern about conflict interests, can be seen in this short story from
GM Watch.

The NERC Sponsored a series of on-line debates run by SPIKED
the exRCPers web site Magazine. One of this series was an on-line
debate on GM, it was begun with the opinions of five experts and
three other experts were involved.3 Of the eight experts were selected
by Spiked, only one has been known to take a critical attitude towards
the technology. When the history of those behind Spiked was drawn
to the NERC’s attention, their Press Officer, Marion O’Sullivan
responded, ‘NERC is satisfied that there is no evidence suggesting
that, on environmental matters, Spiked have any particular agenda.’4
In fact as you will see when you read on, Spiked and other organs and
individuals attached to what was once the RCP are probably the most
rabid anti environmentalists on the planet.

After getting her PhD, Bowden went to the Research Associate at
Dep of Agriculture and environmental science University of
Newcastle to do work on development and risk assessment of genetically
engineered avian probiotics. Then to the post of a senior
Scientific Officer at the Department of the Environment (now DETR)
Manager of the administration section of the Biotechnology Unit, now
called the GM Policy, Science and Regulation Unit – part of the
Chemicals and GM Policy Division within the Environmental
Protection section of Defray. In the department, a team of policy makers,
scientists and regulators working on GM matters.

This Division controls the deliberate release of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) in England; developing national GM Policy
and turning EU directives into national law; representing the UK in
EU and international negotiations on the environmental safety of
GMOs; commissioning and disseminating scientific research on GM;
assessing the environmental risk of the contained use of GMOs.
Bowden’s job there was to review applications for contained use.

Working as she did in this regulatory Unit, Bowden must have
come into contact with all these corporations and company scientists
seeking licenses for the deliberate or contained use of GM products.
DEFRA is advised in all these matters by the Advisory Committee on
Releases to the Environment (ACRE). At this time, during 1997 and
1998, the Advisory Committee was made up of5 Professor John
Beringer, Dr Philip Dale, Dr Ian Garner, Professor Alan Gray, Ms
Julie Hill, Dr Julian Kinderlerer, Mr John MacLeod, Professor Bev
Moseley, Professor David Onions, Professor Nigel Poole, Dr David
Robinson, Dr Ingrid Williams, Dr Katherine Venables. In the majority
these are individuals who side with the Bio tech industry.
Anyone watching Rebecca Bowden’s career, might have assumed
that she was heading for great administrative things in the field of
Government Science Policy. She was, by 2002 she was working in the
intimately close Office of Science and technology, the private office
of both the Scientific advisor to the Government and Lord David
Sainsbury the Minister for Science. There she was helping organise
science policy and its communication to the public as well as organising
it ‘onflow’ into Europe, where it was important that British
Biotechnology gained poll position.

But first, a little deviation, Bowden came out of government in
1998, to take up a position at the Royal Society as a manager in the
Science Advice Section. At the Royal Society, she met with a hotbed
of pro GM scientists all corporeal with corporate money and deeply
immersed in the battles for GM acceptability. Whatever she went to
the Royal Society to do, she quickly became responsible for organising
the pro GM lobby from those hallowed halls.

One of the first things Bowden did at the Royal Society was to
form a group which would present a timely report on GM plants in
September 1998 entitled ‘Genetically Modified Plants for Food Use’.
Its expert group broadly concluded that the use of GM plants had the
potential to offer benefits in agricultural practice, food quality, nutrition
and health.6

Almost every member of the group was a known supporter of GM
foods. The chairman was Peter Lachmann – later accused of threatening
the editor of The Lancet in an effort to prevent the publication of
Dr Arpad Pusztai’s research showing adverse effects on rats from GM
potatoes.

Other contributors holding positions within the Society were
Aaron Klug (President), Brian Heap (Foreign Secretary). Others
involved in drawing up the report included Ed Dart of Adprotech – the
biotech company which Lachmann helped found – and also a former
R&D Director of Zeneca Seeds, Neville Craddock of Nestlé, Phil Dale
and Mike Gale plus two other colleagues from the John Innes Centre,
Derek Burke, Chris Leaver, Alan Malcolm, and Noreen Murray.

But Bowden was doing more at the Royal Society than organising
a report. Working to a plan resolved by OST she was organising the
lobby for GM crops. Partly this involved creating a body of scientists,
particularly those from the RS who could be put in front of the Media
to support the government’s position. It also involved setting up what
the Guardian called ‘a rebuttal unit’.

Between 1999 and 2002, the Royal Society and Rebecca Bowden
were heavily involved in destroying the research work of Arped
Pusztai, running constant flak against him and trying hard to destroy
his reputation as a scientist. Over the year of 1999 and 2000, the Royal
Society and Bowden produced their contributory ‘white paper’ on
Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture, issued jointly by seven
national academies of science. The paper emphasized the potential of
GM crops to relieve hunger and poverty. The February 1999, nineteen
Fellow condemned Pusztai, in a letter published in the national press.
In May 1999 the Royal Society published a partial ‘peer review’ of
Pusztai’s then unpublished research. This review was based not on a
properly prepared paper, but on a far-from-complete internal report.
Culminating in the verbal attack on Richard Horton by Lachmann, in
a phone call to The Lancet editor. In 2001, Bowden was described as
senior manager of science policy at The Royal Society. Bowden was
responsible for coordinating biotech policy for the society, reporting
to the president, Sir Aaron Klug.

Clearly the Government or the Minister for Science had chosen the
Royal Society as the public outpost of Government policy on bio-technology.
And someone had chosen Rebecca Bowden as the command
post co-ordinator of the corporate fight back against those who wanted
a precautionary freeze on GM crops. Funders of the Royal Society
include, Aventis Foundation, BP plc, The Wellcome Trust, AstraZeneca
plc, Esso UK plc The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Andrew W
Mellon Foundation, National Grid Transco plc.

The organisations and individuals who wanted a proper democratic
discussion on GM Crops, had by the beginning of the new
Millennium, become highly organised. Most particularly because of
the great muck raking writing of Andy Rowell and George Monbiot,
the manipulation of corporate science had been revealed. On consideration,
it must have occurred to Sainsbury and his colleagues that
although a base at the Royal Society had been a good idea, there were
too many old codgers swinging from the trees their fists full of money,
for it to remain discreet for any time.

In September 2001, Fiona Fox had been appointed to run the
Science Media Centre and between December 2001 and February
2002, a completely opaque consultation process was carried out. In
November the 120,000 pounds worth of corporately funded work on
new offices situated in the Royal Institute, was completed and in
March 2002 the SMC opened for business.

By this time, Rebecca Bowden was back home at OST, where she
was active in a series of cabinet level groups, again organising the
government communication of science policy.

The Ministerial Committee on Science Policy, known as SCI, is the
Cabinet Committee that provides the framework for the collective consideration
of, and decisions on, major science policy issues. Its terms of
reference are “to consider the Government’s policies in relation to scientific
advances and public acceptance of them”. Membership of the
Committee can be found on the Cabinet Office web site. The secretariat
is provided jointly by the Cabinet Office and OST.

The Ministerial Sub-Committee on Biotechnology (SCI(BIO))
which includes, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs, Secretary of State for Health, Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Elliot Morley), Foreign and
Commonwealth Office (Bill Rammell), Home Office (Caroline Flint),
Scotland Office, Northern Ireland Office (Angela Smith), Under
Secretary of State, Wales Office Department for Trade and Industry
(Lord Sainsbury), Department for International Development, the
Chief Scientific Advisor is invited to attend. The Chairman, Food
Standards Agency will be invited to attend as appropriate. The subcommittee
has a brief to ‘consider issues relating to biotechnology –
including those arising from genetic modification, biotechnology in
healthcare and genetic issues – and their economic impact; and to
report as necessary to the Committee on Science Policy.’

OST co-ordinates and provides the secretariat for the Foresight
Official’s Group which, amongst other things, considers how
Foresight is taken forward across Government. OST participates in
Inter-Agency Committees, on marine science and global environmental
change, which maintain an overview of research in their
respective fields. OST chairs and funds the first of these. In the field
of biotechnology, OST provides the secretariat for IGGMOT. OST
also has joint responsibility with the Cabinet Office for providing support
and the secretariat for the Cabinet Committee on Bio-technology.
Sir Robert May, in his capacity as Chief Scientific Advisor also
attends this Committee as an observer. Other issues picked up and
addressed by the OST have included resistance to antibiotics, Vitamin
B6, sports science, science centres and herbal products.

The CSA provides advice to the Prime Minister, to Ministers collectively
and to individual departments. The CSA is also responsible
for advising the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and the Secretary of
State for Trade and Industry (in the latter’s capacity as Cabinet
Minister for Science) on S&T issues. As Head of OST, CSA is responsible
for its transdepartmental functions which include advising
Ministers on issues arising on S&T expenditure, co-ordinating activi-
ty on issues of a key cross-departmental nature, and taking forward a
number of specific transdepartmental activities such as Foresight and
LINK.

The Ministerial Science Group is chaired by Lord Sainsbury. Its
membership comprises Ministers from each of the departments with
significant S&T activity, including the devolved administrations. The
secretariat is provided jointly by OST and the Cabinet Office.

MSG is an informal committee which aims to promote a co-ordinated
and coherent approach to S&T policy-making across
Government. Its role will include the review of departmental science
strategies. It also has responsibility for considering issues relating to
the Government’s policy on science, engineering and technology,
including the development of the Foresight Programme and implementation
of the Chief Scientific Advisor’s guidelines on the use of
scientific advice in policy making.

The Chief Scientific Advisor’s Committee (CSAC) is the main
official-level cross-departmental forum for discussion of S&T issues,
following devolution. The new arrangement meant that officials of the
devolved administrations could no longer see Cabinet Committee
papers or be involved in discussions which became Cabinet
Committee advice. The terms of reference for CSAC are:

1. To consider issues of relevance to Her Majesty’s Government
and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales concerning
science, engineering and technology (SE&T). In particular:
To provide advice to Ministers, primarily through the Ministerial
Science Group.
To discuss and facilitate implementation of policy on SE&T.
To identify and promulgate good practice in SE&T-related areas,
including the use of scientific advice in policy making.
To facilitate communication on particular high profile SE&Trelated
issues and those posing new challenges for Government.

2. Experts on specific issues may be invited to attend or address
CSAC when required. Invitations will be given by the Secretariat
following consultation with members.

Discussions in the SCI Ministerial meeting of December 2001 on
Public Confidence in Science and further discussions at the CSAC
meeting in January 2002 had considered the need for ‘proactive communication
of the Government’s approach to science, including controversial
issues.

The spokesperson for the OST stated that there was a key role for
the CSA and departmental Scientific Advisors, alongside Ministers to
get the facts across in a balanced way.

The OST proposed that it should organise a workshop to be held
in September 2002 to consider best practice in government com-munication
of science and scientific issues. Amongst other things, the
workshops would explore, existing relationships between science policy
makers and scientific advisors and the media; aim to establish best
practice code of guidelines for Government, drawing on the work
already done by the Royal Society, Royal Institution & SIRC and to
set up a continuing network to exchange experience and best practice
in science communication by government and public bodies.

The workshop would be especially for members of Scientific
Advisory Committees, Directors of Communications in government
Departments, units or individuals, with experience of dealing with the
media, members of the media, policy makers, in departments and others.

To develop the workshop, OST was to set up a Steering
Committee to advise on content, target audience and outputs. It was
proposed to include the following people on the Steering Committee:

Chair – Jo Durning (OST), Leonie Austin (Cabinet Office,
Director of Communications, Monica Winstanley (Research
Council) Ailsa White DoH, Fiona Fox (Director of the Royal
Institute Media Centre, Pallab Ghosh (BBC Science
Correspondent), Neil Martin (DEFRA Director of Com-munica-
tions and Graham Jordan from the MOD.

The First meeting was to take place in June. The contact at the OST
for anyone who wanted to know more about the Steering Committee
meetings or the eventual workshops, which would teach ministers to
spin the news on science, especially in controversial circumstances
was Rebecca Bowden.

In September 2002 OST held a workshop to discuss government
communication on scientific issues. This allowed the participants
from Science Advisory Committees, Government Departments, and
journalists to discuss best practice in communication of complex
issues on a ‘lessons learnt’ basis.

The Ministerial Committee on Science Policy (SCI) organised
from within the Cabinet Office is comprised of the secretary of State
from all the major departments, the Leader of the House of Commons,
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Minister of State, Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister (Keith Hill), Minister for Trade, (Douglas
Alexander), Minister for Pensions, Minster of State, Department for
Culture, Media and Sport (Estelle Morris) Economic Secretary,
Treasury and three Parliamentary Under secretary’s of State, Northern
Ireland Office (Ian Pearson), Department for Trade and Industry (Lord
Sainsbury) Department for International Development, The Chief
Scientific Advisor and the Chief Medical Officer are invited to attend.
The Chief Veterinary Officer and the Chairman, Food Standards
Agency will be invited to attend as appropriate. Its terms of reference
are absolutely explicit and not a thousand miles away from those of
the SMC, “To consider the Government’s policies in relation to scientific
advances and public acceptance of them.”

The European Science Foundation is the European association of
65 major national funding agencies devoted to scientific research in
22 countries. The European Science Foundation which pursues British
science policy in Europe on behalf of the corporations, is co-ordinated
by the MRC from the offices of OST, in the form of Rebecca
Bowden. ESF has an ongoing interest in developing better interactions
between science and the media. To this end, ESF has supported the
establishment of AlphaGalileo as an information site for science journalists.
It also supports the activities of the EU Science Journalists’
Association (EUSJA) whose secretariat it hosts.

If you thought that corporate control of science policy and its
expression in the media was bad in Britain, take a look at it in Europe,
there, a CIA funded organisation set up by the Americans in 1948 to
handle the right side in the Cold War, dominates most decision making
through the jerry built body the Council of Europe. The European
Science Foundation on behalf of British tax payers, is pursuing science
policy through this august body. And our end of it, you will be
pleased to know is being organised by Rebecca Bowden, from her
office in the DTI.

ESF is actively involved in the European Science Communication
Network (ESCIN) whose web site is also hosted by ESF. In terms of
enlarging the debate on science and the media, ESF has worked with
the Council of Europe. A hearing of the Council of Europe
Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Science and Technology
was jointly organised with ESF in Paris in October 1999. ESF will be
devoting part of its 2001 Assembly in November to a debate on the
media’s role in transmitting public perception and culture of science.

In September 2002 OST held a workshop to discuss government
communication on scientific issues. This allowed the participants
from Science Advisory Committees, Government Departments, and
journalists to discuss best practice in communication of complex
issues on a ‘lessons learnt’ basis.

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