GeneWatch UK Director Helen Wallace has apparently resigned from a Food Standards Agency (FSA) steering committee dedicated to discussing genetically modified (GM) foods, after claiming that the group “is nothing more than a PR exercise on behalf of the GM industry.” Charged with managing a public dialogue on the potential risks and benefits of GM food, the external stakeholders on the committee currently include consumer advocates, trade association representatives, market and policy experts, and scientists.

In her May 26, 2010, resignation letter, Wallace pointed to several Freedom of Information requests that allegedly revealed how the Agricultural Biotechnology Council and similar organizations influenced the dialogue agenda and other FSA activities. According to Wallace, the steering committee “was set up from the outset to provide free ‘reputation management’ to the GM industry at taxpayers’ expense.” She also accuses FSA of using the discussion to focus on “on a non-existent positive future where new GM crops will ‘feed the world’, whilst lobbying to end the segregation of GM and non-GM food and feed entering Britain and Europe, and opposing the labelling of meat and dairy products produced using GM feed.”

FSA has since responded to the resignation by reaffirming its neutrality and pledging to continue its public outreach efforts. “The issues surrounding this topic are important to the future of agriculture and food production,” stated a May 27 news release. “The steering group’s aim in conducting that dialogue is be to ensure that the issues, concerns and aspirations that the public have with respect to the use of genetic modification in the production of food are identified and recognized in future policy.”