Martin Livermore is the Director of the Scientific Alliance. He was formerly a PR man for the biotechnology company DuPont, as well as for the agri-food giants Unilever and Dalgety. After leaving DuPont in 2001, he set up his own consultancy, Ascham Associates. He claims to have 'extensive networks in the food chain, public sector, NGO and think tank communities'.
The links on Ascham Associates' website are revealing. They include: CropGen, the Sustainable Development Network, Philip Stott's Anti-Ecohype site, Tech Central Station Europe, the International Policy Network, the Scientific Alliance, EuropaBio, Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe, and Spiked Online.
Livermore works closely with people involved in many of these organisations and plays a part in some. For instance, Livermore is a Fellow of the International Policy Network and has recently contributed a chapter to an IPN book attacking the Kyoto protocol edited by Kendra Okonski. He is on the Advisory Forum of the Scientific Alliance along with Philip Stott, Vivian Moses of CropGen, and Spiked contributor/ suppporter Bill Durodie. Sense about Science list a 'Mr M Livermore' amongst those from whom it has received 'financial contributions'.
According to Livermore's firm Ascham, 'Having had considerable experience in dealing with a wide range of stakeholders, including CSOs (Civil Society Organisations), in the biotechnology sector, we are in an ideal position to help companies manage such relationships sensitively and positively wherever possible.' However, in August 2000 Livermore's activities in this area gave rise to adverse publicity for his then employer DuPont when The Guardian reported Livermore's unsuccessful efforts to lobby such organisations. Livermore was trying to encourage them to withdraw from the Five Year Freeze coalition which wants a freeze on the commercial growing of GM crops. 'A UK representative of DuPont has sparked the behind the scenes row,' The Guardian reported, 'by attempting to persuade four of the largest and most influential partners in the five-year freeze to withdraw their support'. Annoyance was caused by Livermore's suggestion that these organisations, which had arrived at their position of support for the Five Year Freeze democratically, did not reflect 'the opinions and best interests' of their members. A spokesperson for Unison, Britain's biggest trade union, commented that Livermore's approach was 'based on insufficient knowledge and understanding of the issues'.
Livermore has written a number of letters to the national press in support of GM crops in the name of the Scientific Alliance. In late October 2003 The Times reported that, 'More than 100 leading scientists have made a once-in-a-generation appeal to Tony Blair to save British science'. The Times also referred to the signatories as 'leading scientists' and '114 eminent researchers' (Scientists test Blair and find him wanting). Among the 'eminent researchers' who had signed the letter to the Prime Minister was one listed as 'Dr Martin Livermore Plant Scientist; Independent Consultant'. Not only is Livermore not 'eminent' and without a doctorate, he is not a 'researcher' in the accepted sense of the word and his training was in chemistry, not plant science.
The letter to Blair was organised by Sense about Science. The following letter appeared in The Guardian on 3 November 2003.
Letters to the Editor
"The best scientists will work with industry," proclaims Professor Chris Leaver (Scientists complain GM debate was mishandled, November 1). In which case, the ones who wrote to Tony Blair must be luminaries. The letter's signatories read like a roll call of special interests. Take, for instance, Dr Martin Livermore. He runs an agri-food PR consultancy, prior to which, he did PR for DuPont. He is also part of the anti-environmental Scientific Alliance, as are several other signatories. Yet more belong to the biotech industry funded, pro-GM lobby group, Cropgen. Roll over, Gregor Mendel. A new breed of scientist is at work.
Jonathan Matthews GM Watch