Prior Pursglove College, Guisborough, 1968-75: Imperial College 1976-79: University of East Anglia, 1979-82
A levels in biology, chemistry and maths: BSc degree in zoology; PhD in ecology
2010-now, Scientist, University of Leeds; 2006-2010; Head, North Wyke Research; 1991-2006: Senoir ecologist, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology: 1985-1991: Lecturer, Cambridge College for Arts and Technology: 1982-83: Senoir research assistant, University of Liverpool
University of Leeds
Me and my work
I’m an ecologist, interested in how we can use our land and natural resources more sustainablyRead more
I was brought up on a small farm, and was interested in the plants and animals around me, so I was drawn to studying ecology and working in farmland. My early work looked at crops and weeds, before leading large research projects looking at how different types of farming affect the environment. These different types of farming included both organic and GM crops. I also worked on a project called Countryside Survey, that gives a national audit of the landscape and vegetation of Britain every few years.
This photo shows some of the Countryside Survey team comparing notes about the hedgerows and vegetation of this area of Cumbria.
I now divide my time between more research and working with industry and Government to provide expert advice on agriculture and the environment.
My research focuses on how to measure environmental change, using new sensing devices and asking farmers the right questions. I don’t know a lot about the technology, just how the results can be used.
I give advice in several ways. I’m a Director of the Red Tractor company, that sets up the standards and assurance on all our food with small Red Tractor on the label. This label means you can be confident that the food is safe, and has been produced with animal welfare and care for the environment in mind. I’m also on the committee that advises the Government whether or not to allow the use of GM crops: this committee is called ACRE (Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment. We look at applications by companies to introduce GM plants and animals across Europe, and suggest whether or not they are safe to the environment.
My hopes for GM
My hopes for GM are that we can have a constructive, well-informed debate about which particular GM plants and animals we wantRead more
Scientists are developing new types of crops that are resistant to pests and diseases, that are more nutritious, and can grow on soils that are too dry or salty for normal crops. I hope these will allow us produce more food with less environmental harm than current crops; GM won’t save the world, or feed all the hungry people, but it will help.
I hope that we will see more dramatic benefits from GM for medicine. It’s becoming possible to make mosquitoes resistant to malaria; produce large amounts of vaccines in seeds, that they can be transported around very world very cheaply. Some of these new techniques are called GM. I’m hopeful that some of these will work. GM is already being used to develop medicines: I hope that the health of people around the world will benefit.
My fears for GM
That we don’t lose out by a fear of new technologyRead more
I have two main fears about GM technology:
The first is that people think that GM technology is all that is needed to feed the world. We also need changes to how farmers manage the land and how people can get access to the food they need.
The second is that people stop a potentially useful technology from being used, without understanding more about what it is about, how it works, and what the safeguards are.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Opinionated, curious, patient
What is your favourite film?
Changes every day – today it’s Fargo
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I wish I had more energy; I wish I could paint (pictures, not walls); I wish I had more time for playing and listening to music
What's your favourite view in the world?
From the North Yorkshire moors, looking north towards Middlesbrough and Newcastle [myimage1]
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Led the major field experiment on environmental effects of GM crops
Ask me a question!
Would you consider square watermelons as genetically-modified? What are the advantages and disadvantages to watermelons
How does the money spent on GM research in the UK compare to that spent on other new farming techniques?
Do you think infertile GM seeds are a bad thing because even though they could help prevent contamination they would
This may sound silly but why does selective breeding and genetically modifying animals harm them?!?!?
If GM foods become commonplace, will our digestive systems need to adapt at all, to process patterns of DNA that have
I have many concerns about GM but the greatest are: 1. The potential effects on ecosystems by way of altering the
Is it true that cows have been genetically engineered to make human milk? Why is this a benefit to us? Is cows milk not
How can the supporters of GM technology communicate their opinion better to a wider audience rather than just those who
Will the rules on Genetic modification, and even cloning be loosened in the next few decades? For example will GM crops
Quite a general question: The GM debate (in mainstream media) has been one that has spanned nearly my entire life so
View all my answered questions
This may sound silly but why does selective breeding and genetically modifying animals harm them?!?!? (1 comments)
"let’s celebrate the inherently political nature of science" (1 comments)
What new ideas are currently being researched by genetic scientists? (1 comments)
Given that many plant species are capable of propagating - without human intervention - over substantial distances (2 comments)
Scientists are political animals too. ¿For the sake of debate is it better to keep out the political aspect of the GMO (1 comments)
Can GM food take over in taste and healthyness from organic produce? (7 comments)
- Are the experts biased?
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- Is this "fluffy pro-GM PR"?
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- What is this site for?