Examination of witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 18 JULY 2000
BUCKERIDGE and MR
60. Would you welcome product liability?
(Mr Ruthven) We have product liability under the existing
seed regulations, and there have from time to time been cases
where seed companies have been liable for admixtures, for example,
in conventional seed. So yes, I think we would welcome it, because
it would make clear what the liability is. In this particular
instance which the Committee is considering here, we have compensated
farmers. We still do not believe we have a contractual liability
to do that, and we are not quite sure under what regulations we
(Dr Buckeridge) But we do know we have a business
to run and we do business with farmers, and if the farmers are
not happy with Advanta, we do not have a business.
61. If your proposed test of one per cent contamination
had been accepted, would these crops have in fact been acceptable
or not acceptable?
(Dr Buckeridge) These crops under that test would
have been acceptable.
62. If these tests had never been done in Germany
and no-one had ever checked, would they have been checkable and
testable eventually in the oil?
(Dr Buckeridge) Rapeseed oil is a very pure product
and DNA material is proteinaceous in content, so unless there
is a purity problem with the oil, which I think is highly unlikely,
you would never detect this in the oil.
63. It would not detect the difference. Would
we have detected the difference in any other products?
(Dr Buckeridge) Other products from the plant?
(Dr Buckeridge) The other part of the plant would
be the meal, which is used in animal feed. It is difficult to
know whether you would have detected it in the meal or not, because
we would not have tested it, but in theory, if you had done a
sensible test, you might have found an amount of less than one
per cent in the meal. Our advice all along from Government has
been that the level of impurity and the nature of the impurity
pose no threat to health or the environment. That was advice under
which we acted very strongly throughout this event.
65. I wondered if it would be reasonable to
ask you to back up some assertions you make, possibly in writing,
after this discussion because you do make some fairly serious
claims where you say that people were setting out to distort the
facts. I am not sure who the "many people" outside government
in paragraph 4.3 are. You are implying a malevolence in the media.
Pressure groups are particularly mentioned. I would be quite grateful
if you could provide us with some evidence.
(Dr Buckeridge) On 4.3?
66. And 4.2. Would it be reasonable to ask if
you could provide us some examples where you believe there was
deliberate distortion of the facts? There is a clear implication
here that quite a lot of people, presumably journalists and others,
have been trying to misinform the public. I would like that evidence.
(Dr Buckeridge) I do not think there is any assertion
that journalists are deliberately misinforming the public or government
is misinforming the public in that paragraph. I am happy to provide
some written responses on that.
67. You believe, in paragraph 4.1 where you
are talking about misinterpretation, it is pure ignorance in terms
of the media?
(Dr Buckeridge) It is a highly technical subject and
it is very open to misinterpretation of what has gone on when
the story is moving very fast and the technical facts are complicated.
I think it is somewhat inevitable. We were making an observation
that that had occurred in this case.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. I hope
you found a hearing before such a bucolic assembly not too disagreeable.
If there is anything you would like to say which you have not,
please do not hesitate to get that material to us. Anything you
have said you regret, it is hard luck. If you want to listen behind
to what happens next, you are very welcome to do so. I am very
sorry everybody is so crowded in this room, but we cannot do a
great deal about that. Thank you very much indeed for appearing