Vivian Moses

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Professor Vivian Moses has worked tirelessly to promote GM crops and food in the UK, most notably through his role as Chairman of the panel of scientists of CropGen, the biotech-industry funded lobby group. He is on the advisory panel of Sense About Science, as well as being a Scientific Advisory Forum member of the Scientific Alliance. He has written articles on GM for a number of publications, including Spiked.

Vivian Moses formally retired in 1993 and is now emeritus professor of microbiology at Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London, and visiting professor of biotechnology at King's College, London. He is also Emeritus/Founding Director of The Centre for Genetic Anthropology at UCL. Throughout the 1960s, and for about 12 years in total, he was a staff scientist of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, funded by the Atomic Energy Commission, at the University of California, Berkeley. His research there was on bio-organic chemistry, principally control of macromolecular synthesis in microbes.[1]

From 2000-2002 Vivian Moses played a co-ordinating role in the EU project Educating The European Public For Biotechnology,[2] which looked at "the sources of informative material available to the general public" in the light of their importance in terms of the "present and future economic and social significance of biotechnology, together with current consumer attitudes".[3] Among the participants in the project was Peggy Lemaux of UC Berkeley.

Vivian Moses has said that although the "public should be allowed to make their own informed choice about GM foods, it is essential that the biotechnology industry takes the lead in helping educate people on this issue."[4]

The final report of the EU project, "Biotechnology: Educating The European Public" gives specific mention to CropGen, the lobby group which Moses chairs, as a "particularly noteworthy initiative... undertaken by a group of agricultural biotechnology companies active in the UK" who founded "CropGen to make the case for crop biotechnology."[5]

As part of this mission, the CropGen website features a number of questions and answers. For instance, one question asks, 'What are the long-term aims of all this research into GM?' (question 68). CropGen's answer is, 'To continue to use our new knowledge carefully and thoughtfully for the benefit of mankind and the environment'. But several of Moses' publications display considerably more candor about the essential purpose of biotechnology. This is perhaps evident even from their titles, which include "From Cells to Sales", "Entrepreneurial professors", Biotechnology: A Guide for Investors, Exploiting Biotechnology, and Biotechnology: The Science and the Business, which he edited with Ronald Cape.

In their introductory chapter to Biotechnology: The Science and the Business, Moses and Cape describe many definitions of biotechnology as unrealistic and 'rather noble in character, expressing lofty aspirations' while failing to convey that 'biotechnology is not some academic activity, a kind of consequence of innovative laboratory experimentation or a kind of social crusade, but is itself an intensely industrial and commercial matter'. Moses and Cape add, 'Perhaps if pushed, we might describe biotechnology as making money with biology..' (p.1; emphasis in original). Biotechnology, they emphasise, 'is about selling'.[6]

In another of his books, 'Exploiting Biotechnology', Moses describes biotechnology similarly, as 'fundamentally about making money with biology'. Alternative definitions are described as both 'elaborate' and 'a bit woolly'.

He is equally frank in Exploiting Biotechnology about the extraordinary extent of the commercialisation of biology: 'By the end of the 1970s a number of commercial companies were already working directly to generate saleable products based on the new knowledge'. Their corporate laboratories, Moses tells us, 'were almost indistinguishable from the best in the universities... And the scientists, too, were indistinguishable, hardly surprising as most had joined from university laboratories and many who remained professors accepted part-time consultancies with the companies.' (p.2) At no point does Moses appear to consider that this situation may in any way be problematic.

Notes

  1. See, for example, W. L. NICHOLAS, ELLSWORTH C. DOUGHERTY, EDER LINDSAY HANSEN, OSMUND HOLM-HANSEN, and VIVIAN MOSES, The Incorporation of 14C from Sodium Acetate-2-14C into the Amino Acids of the Soil-Inhabiting Nematode, caenorhabditis briggsae, Journal of Experimental Biology 37,435-443 (1960)
  2. Educating the European Public for Biotechnology, BOKU website, accessed 6 May 2009
  3. "Educating the European Public for Biotechnology", BOKU website, accessed 6 May 2009
  4. Vivian Moses, cited by Andy Rowell in "The alliance of science: 'Independent' groups share pro-GM common ground", The Guardian, 26 March 2003, accessed 6 May 2009
  5. "Biotechnology: Educating The European Public", BOKU, Coordinator: Prof Vivian Moses, May 31 2002, p. 223
  6. Vivian Moses and Ronald Cape, Biotechnology: The Science and the Business, CRC, 1999, p.2
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