The Science and Technology Committee has agreed
to the following Report:
SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY SYSTEM: GENETICALLY
1. In The Use of Scientific Advice in Policy Making,
Sir Robert May, the Chief Scientific Adviser, stated that "Science
is playing an increasingly influential role in contributing to
the formulation both of UK and international ... policy and regulatory
Scientific advice is used to underpin Government activity in a
broad range of fields but particularly in critical areas affecting
health and safety, transport, and environmental protection and
"Government needs to be sure that the systems which it has
in place can provide scientific advice in a timely and effective
The role of the scientific advisory system, its effectiveness
and independence, are essential if Government is to fulfil its
2. We began our inquiry into the Scientific Advisory
System last year and decided to proceed by conducting a number
of case studies. This is the first of these.
3. We did not set out to answer all of the questions
arising from the rapid scientific advances that for the last two
decades or so have enabled scientists to modify the genetic makeup
of plants and animals. Rather we used the genetic modification
issue to test the scientific advisory system's contribution to
the development of Government decisions, taking into account other
factors and the wider political context.
Conduct of the Inquiry
4. In 8 oral evidence sessions we have heard from
13 sets of witnesses. Their expertise and insights have been supplemented
by over 70 written submissions reflecting a broad range of opinion.
We are grateful to all those who have assisted us during our inquiry
either through oral or written evidence.
5. We would also like to thank our specialist advisers
for this inquiry: Professor Michael Elves, former Director of
the Office of Scientific and Educational Affairs, Glaxo Wellcome
plc; Professor Alan Malcolm, Chief Executive of the Institute
of Biology and Ms Julie Sheppard of the Consumers' Association.
1 Sir Robert May, The Use of Scientific Advice in
Policy Making, March 1997, ("The Use of Scientific
Advice") p. 1. Back
Committee on Science and Technology, Session 1997-98, HC 796-i,