Food and Drink Federation: Influence and lobbying

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The Food and Drink Federation is a corporate-controlled lobby group which promotes corporate interests in three ways:

  • Producing biased information for the public domain
  • Lobbying government for corporate-friendly legislation and regulation.
  • Placing industry people on relevant government panels to ensure that industry itself decides how or if it should be regulated.

There is ample evidence for all three of these processes. A more subtle current running through the promotion of corporate interests, is the placing of industry representatives on research funding councils and in supposedly independent research institutions.

Influencing the public

The Foodfuture programme and the debate on genetically modified crops (

The FDF claims to provide 'transparent and objective dialogue' to improve public understanding of biotechnology. Lady Sylvia Jay, Director General of the FDF, claims that the FDF is 'neither for, nor against, genetic modification in food production'[1]. However, whilst posing as an impartial body, the FDF is by no means undecided as to the benefits of biotechnology for its members. As far back as 1998/1999, an FDF memorandum to a government Select Committee stated: 'FDF believes that the use of genetic modification of food production can provide benefits throughout the food chain: to primary producers; food processors and consumers we do not believe that genetic modification per se presents any food safety risk or that foods produced using GMOs represent a special class of new foods'[2]

When asked how the FDF is helping to 'improve the whole question of public acceptance of this technology [biotechnology]'[3], Iain Ferguson, who holds several positions in the FDF (see below), replied that it could be achieved by providing 'unbiased, transparent information available to people'. The Foodfuture programme 'is also about making available material for journalists to incorporate in their articles giving an unbiased source of information and running a whole series of exhibitions and roadshows.'

But is this information unbiased or independent? What does 'transparent information' mean? If anything, it suggests that we should know who wrote Foodfuture publications. In reality, we don't know who has written the Foodfuture publications, only that they are published by the FDF, one of them with the support of the NFU. Neither of these groups is a scientific organisation; instead, both represent corporate interests intent on the intensification of agriculture. The analysis below should expose how far the FDF falls short of being an unbiased or transparent source of information.

An analysis of FDF publication 'GM Crops and the Environment: Benefits and Risks' (2000) (FDF publication, with the support of the NFU; available on request from the FDF).


'Growing crops is not a natural process'; therefore we need to ask 'how the benefits and risks of GM crops compare with existing farming practices'.

Organic farming

Organic farming has 'decided not to adopt the [GM] technology'; we are told organic methods can have 'negative effects on the environment : organic pesticides require careful handling to avoid killing insects and birds. On the farm, mechanical methods of weed control (ploughing and tilling) can be more harmful than pesticides; copper sulphate [an organic pesticide] is toxic'.

None of these statements is dirctly untrue but they neglect to look at the reality of organic practices or to compare that to practices using conventional pesticide use, which is generally much more harmful to the environment.

Benefits of GM-agriculture

'[M]any people want farmers to use fewer chemicals'. GM crops fulfil the role by requiring fewer applications of chemicals which the crop is designed to be resistant to; as an added bonus, 'the use of tractor diesel is reduced as fewer sprayings means fewer trips across the fields'.

True, if you believe industry propaganda. The experience of farmers in the USA, tells another story. Increasing resistance to glyphosate, the main herbicide used the growing of GM crops has led to a need for more applications both of glyphosate and other pesticides such as atrazine.[4]

Feeding the world with GM crops

Professor Burke, writing in the Food Futures quarterly journal claims that it is 'perverse, even criminal, to walk away from an increased source of food when we need it desperately'[5] He states '100 million people starving and 800 million people hungry in the world today'. Their presumption is that starvation results from a shortage of food, which only GM crops can solve through higher yields. This argument has been categorically denounced by social scientists working in the field. Starvation is in most cases caused by lack of access to food, not a food shortage globally. Foodfuture's obvious conclusion is to use GM-technology to grow more food, whilst actually contributing to the problem by making larger areas of the world dependent on low farm-wages, possible unemployment, and subsequent starvation.

The Foodfuture publication goes on to claim that the major criticism of GM technology is that not all the world will have access to it. The challenge becomes one of spreading the technology around the world. We are then assured that 'Some of the large corporations who own the technology have freely donated certain applications to developing countries.' This is in the long term interests of the biotechnology corporations, who are keen to see their practices spread worldwide. Note that they only donate 'certain applications', i.e. the farmer still has to buy the seeds and/or the chemicals and/or the machinery.

The dangers of cross pollination

One of the problems of GM-technology is the possible cross-pollination of GM-crops to non-GM crops, and wild relatives of GM crops. This can lead to, for example, herbicide-resistant weeds and volunteers. Rather than refute this widely-accepted possibility, Foodfuture tries to play down the importance of the cross-pollination of GM and non-GM crops: 'In the UK we already fight with Giant Hogweed, Japanese Knotweed and other weeds accidentally introduced from other countries - these may be more of a problem than weeds derived from cross-pollination with GM plants.'

Risk of intensive agriculture to biodiversity

The FDF admits that intensive, monocultural agriculture reduces biodiversity levels in rural regions. Therefore they argue that 'the more efficient we make agriculture the less pressure there will be on 'wild habitats', neglecting the possiblity that maintaining biodiversity can be an integral and useful part of farming techniques.

These documents are available on the Foodfuture website or in their free publication (just e-mail and ask). The FDF also takes their views around the country at exhibitions and roadshows.

Lobbying Government

Examples of how the FDF has distorted the political process are found in the 'Corporate crimes' section. Here is just one example of how the FDF have exerted their influence in their own interest rather than in the interest of the long term health of the planet.

The Climate Change Levy

The FDF has recently secured an agreement with the government such that its members avoid paying 80% of the climate change levy (CCL). The UK government introduced the CCL in April 2001, aiming it at non-domestic energy-users and encouraging them to be more energy efficient. The FDF 'lobbied hard' to achieve dramatic levy-reductions in exchange for rather more modest energy-reductions over 10 years (11.4% reduction by 2010)[6]. This skilful piece of lobbying saved the industry approximately �250 million per year.

Influence through the Industry/Government partnership

Below is a list of FDF people (past and present) who have represented industry whilst also sitting on government committees. The list is by no means exhaustive. For one, the FDF is not obliged to publish details of all the people it employs; rather, it chooses which names to post on its website, although this selection misses out the most 'interconnected' people. This information was mainly sourced from government websites (Parliament Committee Reports ) and the Regulatory News Service (which provides information on industry job positions).

The FDF website does not mention Iain Ferguson, even though he is Honorary Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee of the FDF[7]. Further research shows that Iain Ferguson is a key industry pro-GM supporter, responsible for developing companies' future directions, representing those directions to government, and listening to those directions whilst sitting on government committees.

Industry positions - Senior Vice-President, Corporate Development, of Unilever plc, where he is responsible for 'corporate strategy and new business development throughout Unilever' [8]. This puts him in a key decision-making position for the future direction of Unilever. - Over the last 15 years with Unilever he has held various senior positions, including Chair of Birds Eye Wall's, Chair of Unilever Plantations and Plant Science Group, and Technical Director of BOCM Silcock. During his time as Chair of the Unilever Plantations Group, 'he was responsible for 90,000 employees living and working in oil palm, tea, coffee, and flower plantations in 12 countries around the world'[9]. - Non-executive director of Syngen International plc, a global company which applies genomics and biotechnology to animal breeding[10]. It previously specialised in pigs but is now moving into poultry, beef and fish markets.

Industry-representative positions: - Honorary Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee of the Food and Drink Federation - Chair of the Food Policy and Resources Committee of the Food and Drink Federation. This is a significant committee, composed of 15 chief executives of the major food companies, which examines food regulations and policies[11]. - Fellow of the Institute of Grocery Distribution (the UK food retailing trade body). - Vice-President of the Institute of Grocery Distribution (from January 2003 he will be President). - Non-executive director of the British Nutrition Foundation. - Non-executive director of Rothamsted Experimental Station Limited. Rothamsted is the main site of the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR); it is the largest agricultural research centre in the UK and is possibly the oldest research station in the world. Rothampsted and the IACR have researched and promoted intensive agricultural production from the post-War development of chemical pesticides to the use of biotechnology. Their partners include Aventis, DuPont, Novartis and Syngenta. The IACR promotes biotechnology, arguing that 'New [crop] varieties and products will ultimately benefit consumers and maintain a competitive advantage for UK agriculture and associated industries.'[12]

Government-related positions: - Commissioner on the UK Government's Policy on the Future of Farming and Food, resulting in the Curry Report. - Member of the UK's DTI Foresight Group This programme is managed by the Office of Science and Technology; it 'brings together key people, knowledge and ideas to look beyond normal commercial time horizons to identify potential opportunities from new science and technologies and actions to help realise those potentials.'[13] Although it is meant to be an independent government body, it is infiltrated with industry GM-promoters and has heavily supported biotechnology and other novel food that will provide new avenues for food manufacturers. - In particular, Iain Ferguson sits on the 'Institute of Physics: Industry and Business Foresight: Food Chain and Crops for Industry' Panel, where he joins Professor Janet Bainbridge, a well-known GM-supporter.[14] This panel forms one of the many panels in the Foresight programme which develops 'visions of the future to guide people who make today's decisions in business, academia and government.'

Dr Schofield, a microbiologist, is involved in industry research and industry representation at national and international level, as well as sitting on government committees that are meant to regulate exactly the things that she lobbies for. She is active nationally and internationally, promoting biotechnology to academia, industry, and governing bodies.

A keen GM supporter, her publications include: 'Challenges in Marketing Novel Products' [15]; 'Why Biotechnology?'[16]; and 'Corporate Perspectives on Uncertainty'[17].

In 2002 she was awarded an MBE for her services to 'biotechnology transfer'[18]. She is a key figure in the biotechnology regulatory and lobbying scene.

Industry positions: - Head of Regulatory Affairs at Unilever Research UK. [19] - Academic and public health positions in microbial ecology and taxonomy, biotechnology, biosafety and risk assessment[20].

Industry-representative positions: - Chair of the Novel Foods and Biotechnology Sub-Committee of the Food and Drink Federation[21]. - Honorary Treasurer and Trustee of the Society for Applied Microbiology (SFAM). This charity works to 'advance the study of microbiology, particularly in its application to the environment, agriculture and industry'[22]. It is of little surprise that its research interests include bioengineering; and food safety and technology. In 1999, the SFAM accepted corporate membership. - Editor of Journal of Commercial Biotechnology[23]. - Member of the steering group on behalf of Unilever for the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Bangkok Meeting on 'New Biotechnology Foods and Crops: Science, Safety and Society' (July 2001). - Vice-Chair of BIAC (Business and Industry Advisory Committee) expert group on Biotechnology[24]. BIAC describes itself as 'The voice of the business community at the OECD'.[25]

Government-related positions - Panel member of the Measurement Advisory Committee Working Group for the DTI's NMS's (National Measurement System) Science and Technology Programme: Biotechnology. This panel was set up to help UK biotechnology industries maintain their lead over European competitors by introducing comparative measurement which 'balances and harmonises' regulation between countries (i.e. ensuring the minimum legislation for the UK such that biotechnology firms located in the UK may benefit from looser GM-laws). Another explicit aim of this panel is to try to 'help improve public confidence, particularly in the agro-food applications of biotechnology.'[26] - Member of the Health & Safety Commission[27] (there is no information on her role in this Commission). - According to one source[28], she is or has been a Member of the UK Government's Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification and a member of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

Another key individual involved in GM-regulatory issues. Like Dr Schofield, he easily straddles the industry and government divide. In his own words, he represents 'industry sectors and my company at both national and EU level in discussions with Government, the Commission, Parliaments and other interest parties.' [29] As part of his industry role, he lectures internationally on GM-labelling issues to businesses implementing labelling legislation 'in the most cost-efficient manner'. He has spoken out against EU attempts to enforce stricter labelling laws on GM ingredients (see 'Corporate Crimes' section).

Industry positions: - Group Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Manager for Nestle UK (see Corporate Watch's profile on Nestle) where he is responsible for the legal compliance of Nestle's United Kingdom Business, and for external representation of the company in respect of environmental and regulatory developments (including GM-food issues)[30] - Previously, he has held 'a series of increasingly senior, technical and management positions with British Petroleum (agricultural, fermentation and animal feed projects), Dalgety-Spillers (foods, food ingredients and petfoods) and Bowyers/Northern Foods (meat products) before joining Nestle UK Ltd in August 1986'.

Industry-representative positions: - Chair of the Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Committee for the Food and Drink Federation. This is the principal technical, scientific and regulatory committee of the FDF made up of the chairs of the FDF's specialist sub-committees (such as the Novel Foods and Biotechnology Sub-Committee)[31]. - Gave evidence defending industry representation on government panels to the UK government's Health and Safety Executive (see 'Corporate Crimes' section). This amounts to defending the vested interests of certain government committee members. - Member of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST). This is 'the independent incorporated professional qualifying body for food scientists and technologists'; its objectives include 'to serve the public interest by furthering the application of science and technology to all aspects of the supply of safe, wholesome, nutritious and attractive food, nationally and internationally'; and 'to assist members in their career and personal development within the profession'[32]. - Contributor of the UK Royal Society's paper entitled 'Genetically Modified Plants for food use' (September 1998), which is exceedingly supportive of biotechnology[33]. - Author of 'Risk, Precaution and the Food Business', in Governing Food: Science, Safety and Trade (2002; Phillips and Wolfe Eds.) - FDF-representative to the American National Food Processors Association[34].

Government-related positions: - Member of the Food Advisory Committee (FAC), November 1995 (when it was with MAFF[35]) to December 2001 (when it was abolished). - Member of the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). This committee forms part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a government agency which claims to work at 'arm's length' from government so as to be an independent food safety watchdog which can publish any advice it issues. However, it is widely suspected of being over-involvd with industry. Craddock was one of six new members to be appointed to ACNFP in February 2002 (the new contracts last until December 2004), accompanied by loud FSA claims to be increasing 'lay representation on this advisory committee', 'putting the consumer first', and being 'independent'[36]. Craddock was publicised as 'an expert in food technology and quality assurance'; his industry positions were mot mentioned. - Group Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Manager of the Agricultural and Countermeasures Working Group. This is one stakeholder group of five national stakeholder groups that form part of the European Atomic Energy Community Programme called 'FARMING'. This stands for 'Food and Agriculture Restoration Management Involving Networked Groups'. Its main objective is to 'create a European network of stakeholder assist in the development of robust and practicable strategies for restoring and managing rural areas contaminated by radioactivity'[37]. - Participator in the EU Commission Working Groups on Food Additives and in the EU Advisory Veterinary Committee examining Food Hygiene legislation [38].

Industry positions: - Legal Adviser to Unilever UK.

Industry-representative positions: - Chair of the Labelling Sub-Committee of the Food and Drink Federation. - Chair of the Legislation and Technical Committee of the Ice Cream Federation[39].

Government-related positions: - Member of the Enforcement Liaison Group (ELG). The ELG works with local authority food law enforcement on issues such as: food hygiene; food standards; feeding stuffs enforcement officials[40]. - Member of the 'ad hoc' Clear Labelling Taskforce created in January 2001 to 'review the ease with which consumers are currently able to obtain information of concern to them from food labels.'[41] Surprisingly (!), the taskforce, made up of people with a 'wide range of expertise, experience and interests', decided that being informed of any GM-ingredients in food was not one of the pieces of information that 'consumers need to make informed purchase decisions'.

Professor Aggett, head of Lancashire Postgraduate School of Medicine and Health, has accumulated an enormous list of work he has done for companies with an interest in biotechnology. He is a member of the FDF, and also sits on the government panels where he lobbies from his industry position. The commercial interests listed below are by no means complete - they just give a glimpse of the industry-paid work that he and his department have carried out over the last few years. Professor Aggett's research interests include 'human nutrition and metabolism and food-related activities'[42].

Industry related Positions N.B. The sources of information for each of his commercial interests have been listed for accuracy's sake, although they may not be of relevance to many readers. Listed are the years that the commercial interest were recorded (usually in the annual report), then the committee with which the interest was recorded, and finally the type of interest. A 'Personal Company Interest' is one which involves payment to the member personally. A 'Non-Personal Company Interest' involves payment which benefits a department for which a member is responsible (such as Aggett's Lancashire Postgraduate School of Medicine and Health). N.B. From the 2000 'COT' register of Commercial Interests, no differentiation was made between Personal and Non-Personal Interests. For an explanation of the acronyms ('COT' etc), see under Professor Aggett's Government-related positions.

- SMA Nutrition (1996/Select Committee on Agriculture/ Non-Personal Company Interest[43]) - Nestec (1997/COMA/Personal Company Interest[44] and 2000/ACNFP/Personal Company Interest[45] and 2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest[46]) - Wyeth (1997/COMA/Personal Company Interest and 2000/ ACNFP/Personal Company Interest). Wyeth is a global pharmaceutical company and one of the largest biotechnology companies in the world[47]. - Kelloggs (1997/COMA/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Milupa (1997/COMA/Non-Personal Company Interest and 2000/ACNFP/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Nutricia (1997/COMA/Non-Personal Company Interest and 2000/ACNFP/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Ajinomoto (1997/COMA/Non-Personal Company Interest and 2000/ACNFP/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Unilever (1997/COMA/Non-Personal Company Interest and 1999/COMA/Personal Company Interest[48]) - Nestle (1999/COMA/Personal Company Interest) - Borax (2000/COT/Personal Company Interest)[49]. Borax, a member of the Rio Tinto group, is the 'acknowledged world leader in borate technology, research and development'. Borax mines boron for use in polymer additives, agriculture, and timber preservation. According to Borax, 'boron is an essential micronutrient for plants, vital to their growth and development. Without sufficient boron, plant fertilization, seeding and fruiting are not possible In areas of acute deficiency, borates can increase crop yields by 30 to 40 percent.'[50] - Unilever (2000/COT) [51] - Abbott (2000/COT). Abbott is a health care company, employing more than 5,000 scientists around the world and investing $1bn each year into R&D to develop 'new, innovative health care technologies' in their key therapeutic areas (diabetes, pain management, respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, men's and women's health, paediatrics and animal health). Abbott is involved in biotechnological research[52]. - Abbott EU (2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Astra-Zeneca (2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Smith Nephew (2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest) - ILSI (2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Welcome (2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest) - Yakult (2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest) - 'Many other food, pharmaceutical and chemical companies' (2002/COT/Non-Personal Company Interest)

Industry-representative positions - Member of the FDF (2000/COT), although his position and job description is unknown. - Member of Institute of Food Research (IFR). The IFR ('Science you can trust') is a company with charitable status, sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council, that carries out research into food safety, diet and health, and food materials and ingredients, as well as GMOs. They are focused towards the application of their work in industry: 'to exploit and/or apply the output of our research for the benefit of our stakeholders.'[53] as their mision statement says. To emphasise the IFR's interest in biotechnology, the Director of the John Innes Centre (the UK's leading plant biotech institute) said that the IFR would suffer badly from a moratorium on GM[54]. - Member of the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Government-related positions - Deputy-Chair (2002) of Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT)[55] - Member of Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) from 1997[56]. - Member of Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) from August 1998.

Wood seems to have no direct industry connections. However, this does not stop him actively promoting biotechnology. He believes that 'modern biotechnology offers many potential benefits and will be a key factor in improving the quality and quantity of the food supply. It has the capacity to make a positive impact on many aspects of life - on food, health and the environment.' [57] For views such as these, in 2002 he received an OBE for services to the FDF and to food safety.

Industry-representative position: - Employed by FDF since 1985 (when it was founded), where he has been involved in a wide range of scientific and technical issues, particularly relating to UK and European Union (EU) food law. He may also have worked for other food trade associations ([58]). - He is presently Head of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Division for the Food and Drink Federation, where his responsibilities embrace technical food legislation, research and development, environmental issues and consumer issues with a technical or scientific content. - Member of Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST). - Represented the FDF to the Food Standards Select Committee, which created the Food Standards Agency (1998-1999). The minutes show that the FDF lobbied hard for an FSA that focused on dealing with consumer concern over contentious issues: 'listeria, salmonella, e.coli, BSE, and perhaps the introduction of novel foods We do feel that this is the area, rather than nutritional adequacy of the diet or the nutrient value of individual food products, that is the issue.'[59] Once the FSA was stuffed full of industry-representatives (as it is), the FSA could become a powerful corporate-controlled government organisation which gave advice to the public and regulated biotechnology.

Industry positions - Deputy Chair of Pritchett Foods.

Industry-representative positions: - Chair of the Milk Working Party for the Food and Drink Federation.

Government-related positions: - Member of UK Government Milk Task Force (December 2000)

Industry positions: - Director of Milk and Trade Relations at Unigate European Foods Limited.

Industry-representative positions: - Member of CAP Working Group for the Food and Drink Federation. - Chair of the Liquid Milk Committee of the European Dairy Association

Government-related position: - Member of Milk Development Council of Great Britain (as of February 2001). - Member of the DIF Council

(These positions are probably all past positions)

Industry positions: - Chair of Van den Bergh Foods Ltd

Industry-representaive positions: - President of the Food and Drink Federation - Member of Advisory Board of the Institute of Food Research.

Government-related positions: - Member of DTI's (Department of Trade and Industry) Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), 1 April 1997 to 31 March 2000.

Industry positions: - Head of Corporate Affairs for Milupa, one of the two top companies in the baby food market (2000 - ?). She was employed to help counter public concerns about dried milk and processed baby foods and to fight demands for tighter controls on the marketing and contents of baby foods. Milupa is also one of the four leading suppliers of powdered baby milk in the UK, a market worth around �170 million a year with over a third of UK mothers using baby milk formulas from birth

Industry-representative positions: - Chair of the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, a unit of the Food and Drink Federation, funded by major baby milk and food manufacturers (1997 - 2000). While there, she played a leading role in defending baby food and drinks manufacturers from claims that some products contain excessive sugar and starches, offer poor nutritional value and carry inadequate label information.

(Probably all previous positions).

Industry positions - Retired Utilities Co-ordination Executive, Allied Domecq plc

Industry-representastive positions - Member of Food and Drink Federation and Energy and Water Panel - Acting Chair for Water Forum of Utilities Buyers' Forum - Member CBI Energy Policy Committee

Government-related positions - Member of OFWAT local water watchdog committee (1998 - ?) - Member of OFGAS Metering Steering Group

Other: - Chair, Four Oaks Branch Sutton Coldfield Conservative Association; (West Midlands) (first appointed 8/8/96).


This section has brought to light many 'behind-the-scene' players who do not appear on the FDF or other industry websites, but who have to be listed when sitting on government committees. These people play an important role in bring corporate interests and control into the heart of the political process. A position in the FDF provides easy entry into government, both at the lobbying level and for direct representation.

What is also amply clear from this list is the linkages between industry and the scientific research, thus ensuring the research agenda closely matches the needs of industry.


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