Poole Grammar School until 1983, then at Unversity College Swansea, from 1983 until 1989
A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Geography, BSc Biochemistry, PhD Molecular Plant Pathology
Rhone-Poulenc, Aventis, Bayer
I work with journalists, politicians and other interested parties, including farmers, beekeepers and retailers on all aspects of agriculture
Me and my work
I work for Bayer CropScience here in the UK and chair the industry’s outreach programme on the use of biotechnology in agriculture
I studied for a degree in Biochemistry and then for a PhD in Molecular Plant Pathology from the University of Wales. I then joined Rhone-Poulenc as a plant biochemist working in both the UK and France, and then in research project management in Aventis CropScience.
As a total change in direction, I switched to communicating science in 2002 and I am the Communications & Government Affairs Manager of Bayer CropScience. I am based in Cambridge dealing with media, political and public enquiries on the subject of crop production, innovative plant breeding, together with more general issues surrounding pesticide use and sustainable agriculture. In addition, my role covers policy and corporate social responsibility.
I am also the Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (abc), representing the major companies interested in the application of biotechnology in agriculture. In addition, I chair the respective communications groups of the Crop Protection Association in the UK and EuropaBio inBrussels. All three positions are all about communication, something that we as an industry should spend more time and effort doing.
My hopes for GM
That our farmers are able to choose to grow GM crops here in the UK if that is what they want to do
Approximately 16 million farmers from around the world currently choose to grow a GM crop in 29 different countries Over 90% of these are resource-poor farmers in developing countries. They do so because it works for them. In Europe, there is not so much GM crops being grown (mainly in Spain and Portugal), because of political wrangling at a European level.
We have some of the best and most innovative farmers in the world. Given the right tools to do the job, they can make safe, high quality affordable food in a way that doesnt require more land to be ploughed up, and that does not use up natural resources in such an unsustainable way.
Although clearly it will not solve all our food problems, I believe that GM can help the sustainable intensification of agriculture, and we will see it being used here in the UK in the future. Helping farmers, reducing the environmental footprint of farming, climate proofing crops, improving the nutritional content of our foods. All of these are either achieved commercially already or are in field trials.
My fears for GM
That UK farmers and consumers miss out on the very real benefits that this technology has brought other parts of the world.
Increased yields, improved biodiversity, reduced fuel use, reduced pesticide use, reduced need to plough, reduced costs of production, reduced mycotoxin content, improved soil moisture, improved soil structure. All cited by farmers as why they grow GM crops. If you add to that the need for drought tolerance, heat and cold tolerance and the need to reduce fertiliser use, it is clear that the pressure on farmers is increasing. If it works, and is demonstrated to be at least as safe as non-GM crops, why should UK farmers be disadvantaged? My fear is that UK farmers will not get the choice, and that they will be stuck using old technology in a rapidly developing world in which they will become progressively less competitive. Not because of safety, not because we cannot develop or grow these crops in the UK, but because of politics, or more specifically European politics.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Is it Friday?
What is your favourite film?
Lord of the Rings (spent FAR too much time reading the book over and over again as a child)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
An ability to play tennis (as opposed to hitting a tennis ball with a racquet), a memory would be good, and an ability to recognise when a flippant remark is not required would really help
What's your favourite view in the world?
Durdle Door on the Dorset coast
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Switching from doing a chemistry to a biochemistry degree in my first year at university