Nanotechnologies and Food - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 85)


Dr Andrew Wadge, Dr Stephen Axford and Mr John Roberts

  Q80  Baroness Neuberger: I have just been left with a sense of unease on the public engagement side. It is partly in your response to the Earl of Selborne when talking about the lessons learned from GM. One of the things you have been saying is that it is a bit too early. At the same time your response on GM is that we should have got in there earlier. I do not feel very comfortable that thinking has been developed very carefully. I have always taken the view personally that it is better to get in earlier. All the evidence about public engagement in other areas, say in the health services, shows that to be the case. I know you say this is starting in the autumn. Is there not some argument, given that we are doing this inquiry now, for ratcheting up at least the advance warnings of what you are going to be doing in the autumn?

  Mr Roberts: Of course, we did do some work on social engagement in the period 2004 to 2006-07, which was the first wave, which included citizens' juries and a number of engagement exercises. A number of other people have also done them, such as Which who ran a jury last year and we have access to those results. The second phase of work which has been described will build on the first phase of work which was done three years ago.

  Q81  Baroness Neuberger: I understand that. I still think there is a time issue.

  Dr Wadge: It is useful to clarify what I meant around that in the sense that I do not think it is too early to start the engagement; far from it. We need to learn the lessons and start the engagement. I meant in relation to specific products and the types of information that people might require in relation to that.

  Baroness Neuberger: I accept that.

  Q82  Lord Haskel: On this question of research and all the work you are doing, does that fall in at all with the money which the Government are putting into resuscitating the economy? Is that part of that?

  Dr Axford: The money we have talked about so far is money which was allocated in the last spending review, to the research councils for example. Not any new money, no new stimulus potentially.

  Q83  Lord Haskel: It is not going to be part of stimulating the economy.

  Dr Axford: We do not have any idea about that.

  Q84  Chairman: We shall learn after the Budget. Do you have any other comments you wish to add? I should like to thank you very much for giving us nearly two hours of very interesting conversation but there may be things that you would like to add at this point.

  Dr Wadge: No, nothing. Thank you for the opportunity.

  Dr Axford: No thank you.

  Q85  Chairman: There will be a transcript of these proceedings which will be sent to you for corrections so you will have a chance to make sure the written record accurately represents what you have said. We have asked you for some written material and the Committee Clerk, Antony Willott, will follow that up. Equally, if you have any points you think of that you would like to submit to us in writing, we should very much welcome that. Finally, I should like to ask, if you were advising us on recommendations we should produce at the end of our deliberations, whether you have any particular thoughts.

  Dr Wadge: Other than a large increase in the budget of the Food Standards Agency ... I think you have touched on an area of concern in relation to risk assessment and the capacity we have in relation to toxicological expertise and that is a concern that I have more broadly than simply around nanotechnology and I am involved in discussions with other chief scientists around that particular point. It is something that this very specific issue of nanotechnology does raise from my perspective.

  Chairman: Thank you. Would others like to add anything? Thank you very much indeed.

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