Des D'Souza was head of PR for Aventis CropScience (now owned by Bayer) - the company whose crops were most frequently used in the UK's GM farmscale trials and which as a result was often at the centre of public interest. However, getting information out of their Communications Manager, Des D'Souza could be a difficult task.
Karly Graham who lived near to one such GM trial at Lyng in Norfolk kept a diary of all her frustrated attempts to get the information she had been promised by D'Souza about her local trial. After D'Souza claimed on Radio 4 that only a relatively small number of people had attended a public meeting about the trial that had been packed out, Ms Graham confronted D'Souza on Radio 4's Today programme (see Diary).
The Reverend Paul Cawthorne also ran into problems getting information when he made enquiries about a GM forage maize trial in his area of Shropshire. Aventis denied that such a site existed. It was only after months of further investigation that Paul Cawthorne finally established that he was not being told the truth and there was an Aventis GM crop site in the area. When Rev Cawthorne enquired about another crop trial, Des D'Souza of Aventis personally assured him in a letter that there were no undisclosed trials involving the company's maize seed taking place anywhere in the county. This was a very deceptive answer as, strictly speaking, the seed in the Aventis crop trial counted as the property of Advanta. (for more on the secret trials)
In late July 1999 John Ingham of the Daily Express contacted Aventis's Des D'Souza to ask about a leaked memo showing that Aventis was seeking a massive increase in the number and size of the GM farmscale trials. D'Souza told Ingham he had no comment to make on the contents of the memo. Shortly afterwards, however, the Government's ' GM Communicaions Unit' in the Cabinet Office at No. 10 phoned Ingham to offer to deal with the points he'd raised with D'Souza. The Express ran a front page story (OUTRAGE OVER GM SPIN TEAM , Daily Express, Friday July 23, 1999) on what had happened and in an editorial questioned the propriety of a Government, which is supposed to be regulating the biotech industry in the interests of the public, fielding questions on behalf of a biotech corporation at taxpayers' expense.