Mike Gale

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Prof Mike Gale (died July 2009) was a Fellow of the Royal Society and an Emeritus Fellow of the John Innes Foundation. He was previously the Head of the Comparative Genetics Unit at the John Innes Centre, which receives funding via Lord David Sainsbury's Gatsby Trust and the BBSRC as well as via several of the major biotech corporations. His particular interest was cereal genetics.

Gale was briefly the Director of the JIC prior to the appointment of Prof Chris Lamb. Gale is on record as saying that a GM moratorium would be a serious financial blow to the JIC. According to a front page article in the Eastern Daily Press, 'Warning on GM food ban' (15th February 1999), based around comments by Gale, 'a government-imposed ban or long-term moratorium on growing GM crops or introducing any more GM foods would be a huge blow for the John Innes Centre. "It would be very, very serious for us. There's no doubt the Norwich Research Park and Norwich would suffer," said Prof Gale.' The article continues, 'A ban would choke off many grants which the John Innes Centre receives from industry to research genetic modification techniques.'

Prof Gale was a member of the UK Government's science review panel on GM. He was also one of four JIC scientists who were members of the working group that produced the Royal Society's 1998 report on GM. He was later part of the four man Royal Society team who contributed to a report on GM in 2000 from seven national or international academies of science. He also gave evidence to the working group who produced the Royal Society's 2002 report on GM.

He also served on the Government's Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification. He was a Consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation, a Member of the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute and was on the CGIAR's Central Advisory Services Steering Committee. He was also, together with Derek Burke and Brian Heap, a Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' Working Party on Genetic Engineering., as such he contributed to both their May 1999 report and their December 2003 report, both of which argued that there is a moral imperative to develop GM crops.

Gale was one of the 'experts' in a directory compiled by the Royal Society to help journalists with their science stories. In a Daily Mail article of 31 Jul 2001, 'The GM tomato that could feed the world', Gale claims a GM salt-tolerant tomato 'breakthrough' will 'reduce public opposition to GM crops'. Gale says nothing, however, about the non-GM means available of developing salt- tolerance. Yet Gale could hardly fail to have known about the success of such non-GM research, as it had occurred with wheat, a major food crop, and the research had been undertaken at the JIC itself. If anyone thinks this non-GM breakthrough may have been accidentally overlooked, then it is worth looking at the questionable history of science communication by scientists at the JIC, including the case of the non-GM 'super broccoli'.