Alan Dewar

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Dr Alan Dewar is the director of Dewar Crop Protection Ltd. He was previously head of Entomology at Broom's Barn, a division of Rothamsted Research, formerly known as the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR), which has employed a number of pro-GM scientists[1], including ones who have simultaneously worked for the biotech industry lobby group CropGen.[2] IACR/Rothamsted Research has had Dupont, Novartis, Syngenta and AgrEvo (which became part of Aventis CropScience, and later Bayer) amongst its 'Commercial Partners'.[3]

Dr Dewar began work at Broom's Barn in 1984. Broom's Barn focuses on agricultural research and development in sugar beet. Although financed principally through the sugar beet industry, it also undertakes work directly sponsored by commercial companies. Dewar and another Broom's Barn scientist, Dr Mike May, both hit the headlines in 1999 when The Guardian ran a story[4] about a conflict of interest between their leading role in the UK Government's GM Farm Scale Evaluations and their having earlier been commissioned by one of the companies (AgrEvo) whose crops they were testing for the department of the environment. Dewar and May have also undertaken research for Monsanto.[5][6][7]

In January 2003 Dewar and May were among the authors of 'A novel approach to the use of genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops for environmental benefit' (Proceedings of The Royal Society B, 270 (1513), 335-340).[8] According to their co-author and Brooms barn's director, John Pidgeon, "This is the first time research has shown that GM herbicide-tolerant crops can be managed for environmental benefit."[9] But, in fact, this part-Monsanto-supported research[10] was just the latest to be presented in this way by scientists from Broom's Barn.

Five years earlier, in 1998, Monsanto conducted press tours of GM crop trials with late-growing weeds run by Dewar and May, provoking a lot of positive publicity about the environmental impact of Monsanto's GM sugar beet. Dewar was quoted as enthusiastically saying, "It was obvious to see that the weedy plots were heaving with life."[11] The Times ran the headline, 'Modified crops help man and wildlife', and told its readers, "Genetically engineered crops can save farmers money, reduce chemical spraying and create a better habitat for birds and insects, scientists claimed yesterday."[12] When, nearly two years later, Dewar and May's paper on the research was finally published in Pest Management Science (April 2000),[13] it turned out that the delayed herbicide application involved in the trials produced a massive yield penalty that farmers would be unlikely to accept.[14]

Following on from the 2003 paper Mike May authored a further paper, "Economic Consequences for UK farmers of growing GM herbicide tolerant sugar beet" (Annals of the Association of Applied Biologists, (2003) 142: 41-48[15] - as of 2003 May was General Secretary of the Association of Applied Biologists[16][17]). May's research claimed to show major savings for farmers taking up GM sugar beet but working farmers belonging to the independent farmers' group, FARM, quickly spotted from their experience of beet-growing that the paper had exaggerated by as much as 75% the costs of a conventional herbicide regime. This had the effect of making the GM herbicide regime appear financially attractive. When compared to the real cost, there was little financial benefit from the GM crop and for many farmers with lower weed burdens a financial penalty. According to FARM, the paper also overlooked other costs associated with a GM crop which taken together would have the effect of seriously increasing rather than decreasing growing costs.[18]

For more on Dewar and May's research see:

New study on Transgenic Sugar Beet GM BEET RESEARCH ANSWERS VERY FEW QUESTIONS

Notes

  1. John Vidal and James Meikle, Test experts paid by GM firm, 4 August 1999, accessed 25 Jan 2010. NB The Guardian wrongly reports that one of the scientists was "Bob May" - in fact, it was Mike May.
  2. SACK GM RESEARCH SCIENTISTS! Government Told: Act Now on Conflict of Interest, press release, FoE, 16 Mar 2000, accessed 26 Jan 2010
  3. Research Partners, Rothamsted Research website, version placed in web archive 20 Aug 2003, accessed in web archive 25 Jan 2010
  4. John Vidal and James Meikle, Test experts paid by GM firm, 4 August 1999, accessed 25 Jan 2010. NB The Guardian wrongly reports that one of the scientists was "Bob May" - in fact, it was Mike May.
  5. AlanM. Dewar, Mike J. May, Ian P. Woiwod, Lisa A. Haylock, Gillian T. Champion, Beulah H. Garner, Richard J. N. Sands, Aiming Qi and John D. Pidgeon, A novel approach to the use of genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops for environmental benefit, Proc Biol Sci. 2003 February 22; 270(1513): 335–340, accessed 26 Jan 2010. On p. 340 Monsanto is acknowledged as a co-funder of the research.
  6. Mike J. May, Gillian T. Champion, Alan M. Dewar, Aiming Qi and John D. Pidgeon, Management of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet for spring and autumn environmental benefit, Proc. R. Soc. B 2005 272, 111-119, accessed 26 Jan 2010. This research used Monsanto patented seed.
  7. Alan M Dewar, Lisa A Haylock, Kathy M Bean and Mike J May, Delayed control of weeds in glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet and the consequences on aphid infestation and yield, Pest Manag Sci 56:345-350 (2000), accessed 26 Jan 2010. This research was funded by Monsanto, as is acknowledged on the final page of the study (p. 350).
  8. AlanM. Dewar, Mike J. May, Ian P. Woiwod, Lisa A. Haylock, Gillian T. Champion, Beulah H. Garner, Richard J. N. Sands, Aiming Qi and John D. Pidgeon, A novel approach to the use of genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops for environmental benefit, Proc Biol Sci. 2003 February 22; 270(1513): 335–340, accessed 26 Jan 2010
  9. Economic consequences for UK farmers of growing GM herbicide tolerant sugar beet, undated press release, Rothamsted Research, accessed 26 Jan 2010
  10. AlanM. Dewar, Mike J. May, Ian P. Woiwod, Lisa A. Haylock, Gillian T. Champion, Beulah H. Garner, Richard J. N. Sands, Aiming Qi and John D. Pidgeon, A novel approach to the use of genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops for environmental benefit, Proc Biol Sci. 2003 February 22; 270(1513): 340, accessed 26 Jan 2010
  11. Martin Brookes and Andy Coghlan, Live and Let Live, New Scientist, No. issue 2158, 31 October 1998, accessed 26 Jan 2010
  12. Mark Henderson, "Modified crops 'help man and wildlife'", The Times, 25 August 1998
  13. Alan M Dewar, Lisa A Haylock, Kathy M Bean, Mike J May, Delayed control of weeds in glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet and the consequences on aphid infestation and yield, Pest Management Science, Vol 56, Issue 4, 2000. p 345-350 (April 2000), accessed 26 Jan 2010
  14. The actual words of the study abstract are: "in untreated controls and the two later glyphosate treatments, weeds almost completely covered the ground, leading to reduction of root weight, sugar concentration and yield at harvest." Alan M Dewar, Lisa A Haylock, Kathy M Bean, Mike J May, Delayed control of weeds in glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet and the consequences on aphid infestation and yield, Pest Management Science, Vol 56, Issue 4, 2000. p 345-350 (April 2000), accessed 26 Jan 2010
  15. M J May, Economic consequences for UK farmers of growing GM herbicide tolerant sugar beet, Ann. appl. Biol. (2003), 142:41-48, accessed 26 Jan 2010
  16. REPORT OF THE TRUSTEES AND FINANCIAL STATEMENTS FOR 2003, Association of Applied Biologists, accessed on Charity Commission website, 26 Jan 2010
  17. In the Winter 2007 edition of aabnews, the newsletter of the AAB, Mike May is described as having been elected an honorary member of the AAB. AAB News, Issue 66, Winter 2007, p. 2
  18. Broom's Barn research on GM savings vastly exaggerated, press release, FARM, 17.3.2003, version placed in web archive 5 Apr 2006, accessed in web archive 26 Jan 2010
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