Jim Orson is the Director of The Arable Group (or TAG) which was formed in 2003 in a merger involving the Morley Research Centre, which Orson also previously directed. Morley was a farmer-owned research station in Norfolk, UK, providing information to support the businesses of some of the biggest arable farmers in Europe.
In August 2002 Orson was appointed for 3 years to ACRE, the UK government's official advisory committee on GM releases to the environment. He has also served on the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. He also serves on the Scientific Steering Committee for the farm-scale evaluations (the UK government's GM trials on biodiversity).
Morley under Orson has been involved in running GM crop trials - a potential source of income for a centre which newspaper reports suggest has experienced significant financial pressure.
Orson's public statements also put the question of whether his strong commitment to GM has not put at risk his ability to adequately assess its risks and benefits. He told Reuters, 'The gain to farmers [from GM crops] is clear in terms of higher yields. We believe there are also ways of manipulating herbicide resistant crops for the advantage of the environment.'
But the information on yields from GM rape and GM beet in UK trials does not indicate higher yields, and research on GM soya, the largest GM crop worldwide, shows similarly reduced yields.
Orson's belief indicates that regardless of the results of the UK government's farmscale evaluations, which showed a negative effect on biodiversity from GM rape and beet, Orson will argue not for rejection of the technology but for continued research - a perhaps not unreasonable position for the head of a research station interested in trialling GM crops.
- "Sharp falls in farm incomes have put Norfolk's leading independent agricultural research centre under further financial pressure", Eastern Daily Press, November 6th 1999
- Peter Blackburn, "Campaign against GM crops gains momentum", Reuters, July 21 1999, accessed March 25 2009