Lord Sainsbury Of Turville
Leading Champion Of GM Crops And The Largest Individual Donor To New Labour


The personal donations by Lord Sainsbury of Turville to New Labour have been so huge that in total they are sufficient to have funded the entire cost of a general election campaign. It is hardly credible to believe that this has not exerted a substantial influence on the attitude of New Labour in the controversial public debate about GM crops and biotechnology in which the former Science Minister has been an enthusiastic advocate and investor.

"The [British] Government has asked its top scientist to investigate the merits of genetically modified food in the hope that his verdict will allay public fears about so-called 'Frankenstein foods'. Officially, Gordon Brown and his ministers remain neutral on the issue of GM because of public hostility, saying that they will be 'guided by the science'. But they have quietly ordered a major research project, which they hope will provide the launchpad for a campaign to persuade people that GM food is safe. The study will be led by Professor John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientific Officer, and carried out by the Foresight Institute, a science and technology think-tank that looks into long-term issues for the Government....Environmental groups accused the Government last night of trying to sneak in GM food, despite accepting the findings of a four-year international study involving 400 scientists last year which failed to give GM the green light."
Government launches bid to allay fears over GM food
Independent, 18 March 2009

On This Page

New Labour And Biotech
Lord Sainsbury And Lord Drayson
With Power Draining From New Labour
Sainsbury Seeks A New Vehicle For His Influence
Would Life Be Any Better Under The Tories?
The Lobbyists Stampede

New Labour And Biotech
Lord Sainsbury And Lord Drayson

Lord Sainsbury

"Lord Sainsbury, the supermarket billionaire and science minister, yesterday said he did not own the patent rights of the gene used in the research which has highlighted the potential risks to human health of genetically modified food. But he accepted that he does own the rights to a genetic enhancer that, according to patent application papers, was developed to act as a booster to the key gene used in GM food technology....Diatech, the biotechnology company which Lord Sainsbury put into a blind trust last year, submitted a 60-page patent application in June 1987 describing a genetic sequence taken from the tobacco mosaic virus. The application looked at how this genetic sequence could enhance the development of protein in a genetically modified organism. During research leading up to the application, the gene sequence was attached to the cauliflower mosaic virus promoter to act as a booster to Monsanto's promoter, which is used in most GM foods available worldwide and found in an estimated 60 per cent of processed foodstuffs available in British supermarkets."
Key GM gene is owned by Monsanto
Guardian, 17 February 1999

"Lord Sainsbury gave 2 million to the Labour Party in 1996, 1 million in 1997 ..... Lord Sainsbury was given his peerage in 1997 and made Government Minister for Science in 1998, at which point he resigned as Chairman of the Sainsbury's supermarket chain. He put his 1.3 billion worth of shares (a 13% stake in Sainsbury's) into a 'blind trust' run by Judith Portrait of Portrait Solicitors (who have been solicitors for Sainsbury's since 1988). During his six years as Chairman of Sainbury's, he championed Genetically Modified (GM) food, although since his resignation the company has dropped GM food completely. He owns 2 genetics companies, Diatech and Innotech Investments (his shares in these companies were also put into a 'blind trust' when he became a minister). He backed the study of Genetically Modified organisms (GMO) through his Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Judith Portrait is a trustee), set up in 1987 and which gives 2 million a year to the Sainsbury Laboratory/John Innes Institute in Norwich."
Friends of The Earth, Press Release 4 June 2001

"In July 2002, the [UK] Government announced that it would have a broad public debate on the future of GM crops and food in the UK which was called 'GM Nation?'.... The results of this public debate were intended to be taken into account in the decision-making by the Government for any future GM policy.... GeneWatch believes that these findings of the 'GM Nation?' debate are robust and represent a valid and useful body of information to inform policy making. Importantly, they largely reflect the findings of other studies on public attitudes. Whilst it makes uncomfortable reading for government and the biotechnology industry, there is little to be gained from ignoring its findings..... The public's rejection of commercialisation was discounted and any potential public benefits from biotechnology left to emerge from the vagaries of the market. 'Jam tomorrow' was the message with no explanation of how this might be achieved..... Industry, like Government has to learn that in a complex area of risk driven by commercial industrial interests, 'jam tomorrow' will never make a convincing case for risks arising for no good reason today. So the Government has proved unable to deal with the scope of public questioning about the trajectory of GM technology. Whilst it had the courage to hold a public debate, it did not have the maturity to deal with the outcomes in any depth..... We advised that if the Government sought to downplay the outcomes of the public debate, this could increase public suspicion that the debate was never intended to be more than a PR exercise, and further undermine confidence in the Government and its institutions to act fairly in complex matters of assessing risks to the public and the environment.... The outcomes of the public debate, 'GM Nation?', showed that people are suspicious and sceptical about GM crops and have little confidence in Government and the agro-biotechnology industry. They do not reject the technology entirely, but want further research and demonstrated benefits. They also want to know more. The seven key messages that were communicated during this process... [included] The more people engage in GM issues, the harder their attitudes and more intense their concerns become."
Avoiding the difficult issues - GeneWatch UK report on the Government.s response to the 'GM Nation?' public debate
Study funded by Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, June 2004

"The Labour Party has always been easy prey for the rich. Senior ministers are touchingly naive about the motivations of those with very large fortunes, and only too easily impressed by those prepared to write a large cheque in favour of their party. From Bernie Ecclestone to the Hindujas, Lakshmi Mittal to David Abrahams, donors and their cash have proved nothing but trouble for Labour. But one man has, since 1997, given more than any other: Lord (David) Sainsbury, former chairman of the High Street grocer, science minister for eight years under Tony Blair, and Labour donor to the tune of 16 million....Lord Sainsbury is not merely another rich businessman. He is the prime example of how, under Labour, it is apparently possible for the rich to buy their way to power. Surely no one believes that he would have been made a peer and become minister for science - the one job he craved in Government - if he'd never written a single cheque to Labour? .... As a minister, Lord Sainsbury was popular with the scientific community, but he had a controversial agenda which his position in Government gave him ample opportunity to advance. He is a long-term supporter of genetic modification for crops, and before going into Government had invested substantial sums in GM companies. Although he always claimed to stand aside from discussion of GM matters, his role as science minister for eight years gave him huge influence inside and outside Government to advance the GM cause. Of course, he claimed that when he went into his ministerial job, he placed his assets - including those in GM firms - in a so-called blind trust, administered by a solicitor, and had no control over them. But since he knew quite well what assets he had placed in the trust in the first place, it wasn't in fact in the least bit blind. That claim was just a polite fiction, which protected him from accusations of profiting from his position, while allowing the profits from his shareholdings to continue to accumulate."
How ripe! Labour's rich friends want US to pay higher taxes which THEY then do their best to avoid
Daily Mail, 2 April 2008

"Ministers are preparing to open the way for genetically modified crops to be grown in Britain on the grounds they could help combat the global food crisis.... Last night, the Environment minister Phil Woolas held preliminary talks with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, an umbrella group formed in 2000 to promote the role of biotechnology in agriculture. It is run by representatives from the companies Monsanto, Bayer CropSciences, BASF, Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer (DuPont), and Syngenta.....[Ministers] want the new debate to focus on the science to avoid a re-run of the one in 2004, when the GM industry was accused of trying to bounce the Government into giving the go-ahead for purely commercial reasons. Gordon Brown is believed to be sympathetic to taking a fresh look at the issue in the light of mounting problems including 'food riots' around the world. There are no plans yet for a formal cabinet decision but government sources acknowledge the issue is rising up the agenda. 'Enough time has elapsed since the 2004 decision,' one said."
GM crops needed in Britain, says minister
Independent, 19 June 2008

"Labour has pulled itself back from the brink of bankruptcy by restructuring its loans and persuading the bulk of its backers to give the party until 2015 to repay the money. Party officials have been locked in frantic negotiations with more than a dozen businessmen who lent Labour 15 million in the run-up to its 2005 election campaign. The loans, which were due to be repaid next year, threatened to sink the party. Officials are due to announce the new loan agreements next week.... Many of the existing lenders were embroiled in the cash-for-honours scandal. Insiders said that party officials had desperately tried to persuade the lenders to convert their loans into gifts. But only two of the tycoons — Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the supermarket heir, and Sir Gulam Noon, the curry magnate — were prepared to write off their money. Lord Sainsbury, a Labour peer, lent the party 2 million, and Sir Gulam lent 250,000."
Lenders save Labour from bankruptcy with 7 year reprieve to pay 15m
London Times, 13 August 2008

"Listening to the backlash against the Prince of Wales's warning about excessive industrial farming, it becomes clear that there is a clique of Labour MPs who regard themselves as champions of genetic modification....Given their passion for official intervention, it's no surprise that they condemn the Prince as a posh pagan. His view that 'clever' genetic engineering is driving us down a road to ruin is ridiculed and abused."
Genetically modified politics - the answer to Labour's prayers
Daily Telegraph, 15 August 2008

"The billionaire former minister Lord Sainsbury has made a 2m donation to Labour as the party prepares to announce a shake-up of its finances. Labour bosses will unveil a long-term financing deal with its creditors this week, drawing a line under the 'loans for peerages' affair, which threatened to bankrupt the party. The announcement is likely to spark further speculation that Gordon Brown is clearing the way for a snap election next year, although officials said there was 'no provision or planning' for an early ballot. Under the terms of the finance deal, Sainsbury, who was science minister from 1998 to 2006, has converted a previous 2m loan into a donation."
Lord Sainsbury in 2m gift to Labour
Sunday Times, 23 November 2008

"As it prepares to fight for a fourth consecutive term in power, the Labour party machine is in trouble. Ministers, officials, union leaders and ordinary members all admit privately that it has never seemed weaker or worse prepared for the task. Yet few people are ready to give up yet. 'I still don't think it's game over,' says a former minister, no supporter of Gordon Brown. Labour's 12 years in office - scarred by an Iraq war that drained support and a 'cash for peerages' affair that has made it much more difficult to raise new private donations - have left it short of two of the key ingredients for election success: money and manpower. While the Tories' target seats are being pumped full of cash by their deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, Labour remains between 16m and 18m in debt....Jon Mendelson, who is to Gordon Brown what Lord Levy was to Tony Blair, managed to extract 1m for Labour from JK Rowling last autumn, before Lord Sainsbury followed up with 500,000 in December."
Party struggles for money and muscle in fight for fourth term
Guardian, 17 March 2009

Lord Drayson

"Lord Paul, the multi-millionaire ally of Gordon Brown, was made a privy counsellor by the prime minister after pledging to donate 'as much as he could afford' to Labour’s election campaign.... It is unusual for party donors to be made privy counsellor unless, like Lord Drayson, they also become government ministers."
Row over Gordon Brown donor’s new honour
Sunday Times, 13 December 2009

"Lord Drayson, the biotech millionaire who becomes a Defence minister, is among Labour's most generous donors. Within six weeks of being made a Labour peer last year he handed over 500,000 - on top of two 50,000 donations he gave Labour previously. He is highly rated by the Prime Minister but is seen as a controversial figure by some at Westminster. His former company Powderject secured a 32m contract to supply the Department of Health with smallpox vaccine. Two inquiries cleared ministers and Powderject of impropriety over the award of the contract and Lord Drayson has since severed executive links with his former company. Like the Prime Minister he is an enthusiast for bioscience and made his maiden speech in the Lords championing Britain as a home for biotechnology. He is very wealthy, having shared 100m with his family when Powderject , a vaccines company, was sold to the American drugs company Chiron. Lord Drayson is believed to have pocketed about 40m from the sale. Lord Drayson's father-in-law, Brian Bellhouse, who invented the initial needless injection technology, is believed to have got 18m for his stake in the business."
Ex-Tory joins Government as Biotech tycoon takes defence job
Independent, 10 May 2005

"Those who thought that Tony Blair could never outdo his choice of an unelected biotech investor and food industrialist as his Science Minister will be reassured to know that the man tipped to be Lord Sainsbury's successor is Lord Drayson, the former head of the BioIndustry Association (Motto: 'Promoting UK Biotechnology'). Just as the Sainsbury-Blair relationship has brought allegations of corruption and cronyism, the Drayson-Blair relationship has also been mired in accusations of sleaze. In September 1997 Sainsbury gave Labour its biggest ever single donation. On October 3 1997 he was made a life peer by Blair and a year later Minister for Science. The former head of the BioIndustry Association, Paul Drayson, is also a Labour Party donor, and has also been given a peerage by Blair in highly controversial circumstances. The controversy began when Drayson, previously an admirer of Mrs Thatcher, made a substantial donation to Labour while the government was deciding who should be awarded a smallpox vaccine contract. Drayson gave a further donation of half a million pounds to Labour just six weeks after the PM made him Lord Drayson. Controversially, the Blair government awarded Drayson's company, PowderJect, the smallpox vaccine contract without any competition. It is said that after meetings between Drayson's BioIndustry Association and a Treasury minister, Blair's Chancellor, Gordon Brown, uncharacteristically approved a tax reform which would save Drayson's company an immediate 2m on its tax bill. After selling his company for a very considerable profit, Lord Drayson described himself as 'a very successful guy through my own hard work'.  Drayson's company, while he still headed it, was a financial supporter of the pro-GM Science Media Centre – a pet project of Lord Sainsbury's. PowderJect's support for the SMC dried up following Drayson's departure. Drayson has also served on a working party of the controversial pro-GM lobby group 'Sense About Science'.While Drayson was the head of the BioIndustry Association, it proposed sweeping new restrictions on the right to protest. The introduction of such legislation would make it difficult to legally conduct a boycott or protest against a corporation. In explaining the reason for the legislation, Drayson said his vision was for the UK to be the life sciences hub of Europe, and the bridge between the Europe and the States."
Corporate Watch, Newsletter 23 April/May 2005

"The UK has a new science minister - the third in two years. Lord Drayson takes up the post in the recently created Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. It is a quick return to government for the multi-millionaire businessman who quit a position in defence in 2007 to pursue his interests in motor racing. The scientific community, however, will welcome the appointment of 'one of their own' - Lord Drayson holds a PhD in robotics. The government, on the other hand, has a man who knows how to exploit innovation for the benefit of UK PLC. Lord Drayson helped set up the Oxford-based Powderject company, which developed a revolutionary needle-free injection system. The firm was acquired by the Chiron Corporation for more than 500m in 2003. 'I'm delighted - it's my absolute dream job,' the new minister said....Lord Drayson succeeds Ian Pearson, who held the science brief for 14 months; and Malcolm Wicks who himself was only in position for eight months. Before them was Lord Sainsbury who was science minister for a remarkable eight years. Sainsbury, like Drayson, has been a big donor to the Labour Party."
Lord Drayson takes science brief
BBC Online, 3 October 2008

With Power Draining From New Labour
Sainsbury Seeks A New Vehicle For His Influence

"He’s the supermarket baron who has bankrolled the Labour Party for more than a decade, Tony Blair’s most loyal minister, who survived more reshuffles than almost anyone else and has donated 4.5 million under Gordon Brown. Now Lord Sainsbury of Turville is helping David Cameron to prepare for power. The Institute for Government, which he set up last month, is running training sessions for Shadow Cabinet members. His staff are acting as match-makers between senior Tories and the Civil Service. There have been breakfast briefings for Conservative frontbenchers with retired permanent secretaries, and seminars for serving mandarins on how to handle a new government. On the day we meet him at the institute’s white stuccoed house overlooking St James’s Park, 15 permanent secretaries, including Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, have just been there for a meeting, according to the visitors’ book.... It is rather extraordinary that Labour’s biggest donor is now training the Tories.... Senior Conservatives and mandarins have been attending a series of seminars on public spending cuts, organised by the institute....His only motive for giving money to Labour was, he says, public service — the reason he is also spending 15 million of his family fortune on the institute. 'My main interest in life is that the country is run better,' he says. So will he give more money to Labour before the next election? 'I’m sure that’s a question they’re interested in too,' he replies."
Lord Sainsbury turns back on Labour to help David Cameron win power
London Times, 18 July 2009

Would Life Be Any Better Under The Tories?
The Lobbyists Stampede

"A senior member of David Cameron’s frontbench team was last night forced to pull out of an appearance as the guest of honour at a reception for a corporate lobbying firm at the Tory conference. Francis Maude, who recently issued a tough warning to lobbyists that they must clean up their act or face statutory legislation, had agreed to meet 'clients and friends of APCO Worldwide' at a private suite in the Midland Hotel in Manchester on Tuesday. A party spokesman said: 'Francis Maude is not attending the APCO event at conference.' The effort to avoid a potential conflict of interest follows last week’s disclosure in The Times that dozens of Conservative parliamentary candidates have been working as lobbyists, with some admitting to having arranged meetings for clients with frontbenchers. Despite claims by the Conservative leadership that it has been keeping lobbyists at arm’s length, commercial interests are still boasting about their ability to gain access to policymakers. An invitation to the APCO event obtained by The Times said that the firm was 'very pleased that this year we will be joined by Francis Maude MP'. Listing his titles as the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Leader of the Conservative Party’s implementation team, it added: 'His important brief includes responsibility for prioritising policy objectives across different departmental portfolios should the Conservatives be successful at the next election.' APCO clients include British Airways, foreign governments, HBOS and Microsoft, as well as defence and oil firms. A spokesman said that it always arranged meetings for clients at party conferences where a 'senior member of the respective party is invited to speak'. Many of the private interests will be represented in Manchester next week where, according to one party insider, 'wealth and power is stampeding in a way not seen since the collapse of the Berlin Wall'. Such comments reflect the unease felt by some senior members of the party at the bombardment from firms seeking to influence the next manifesto."
Francis Maude cancels lobbying appearance at Tory conference to avoid conflict of interest
London Times, 3 October 2009

"Dozens of Conservative parliamentary candidates are working in the lobbying industry that seeks to influence their party’s leadership. An investigation by The Times has found that 28 prospective candidates who have a good chance of becoming Tory MPs are working as lobbyists or public relations consultants on behalf of businesses and other interests. More than a quarter got their jobs after being selected to fight seats. Several acknowledged that they had set up meetings for clients with Shadow ministers, MPs and officials. More said that they had been asked to provide advice on the party’s direction. A few admitted to having pressed clients’ cases to Tory frontbenchers. The disclosure challenges David Cameron’s promise to usher in a 'new politics'. More than a fifth of his 150 candidates most likely to win seats for the first time will have done public affairs work, although a handful have since left the industry. By contrast, only seven Labour and three Liberal Democrat prospective candidates with realistic hopes of victory have jobs in public affairs or communications. The influence of paid consultants was thrown into sharp relief this year when President Obama announced that he would block the revolving door through which lobbyists moved in and out of US administrations. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have issued any such edict....Last night the party declined to comment on the disclosure that so many candidates were working in the industry or the evidence that lobbying firms were keen to build bridges with a party on the cusp of power. Senior Conservative sources have told The Times of their unease over how former party advisers have moved into lobbying before the election. Several firms now advertise their Tory credentials; others have been hired to change policies on gambling and home improvement packs."
Hired guns take aim at target Tory seats
London Times, 25 September 2009

"President Obama spelled it out on his first morning in office. 'As of today lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than in any period of history,' he said. An executive order put a two-year ban between working as a lobbyist and in his Administration, blocking the revolving door between the two worlds. In Westminster, successive governments have seen promises to clean up the muddy patch where politics meets business overrun by scandal. In 1994, the cash for questions affair rocked the Conservatives. The lobbyist Ian Greer was reported to have said that 'you need to rent an MP just like you rent a London taxi'. In 1997, Tony Blair said: 'One of the reasons we were elected was because people believed there was a need to clean up standards in public life and we will do that.' But political relationships with the lobbyists did not remain as pristine as Martin Bell’s white suits. By 1998, Derek Draper, a former adviser to Peter Mandelson and lobbyist, was boasting of friends in high places. 'There are 17 people who count ... To say that I am intimate with every one of them is the understatement of the century,' he told The Observer. His departure from lobbying did not stem calls for reform. But enforcing a code proved difficult. In his 2000 mayoral campaign, Ken Livingstone said: 'No lobbyists will be granted passes to the GLA headquarters, nor be allowed to meet with GLA staff.' Two months later, he was forced to back down and City Hall was soon inundated with practitioners. But a shift in power signifies a shift in alliances. Today, anyone with a working knowledge of the Conservatives is in demand. The Tories know the dangers and are backing greater transparency of lobbyists’ client lists. They have not, however, followed Mr Obama. The President’s order created a shortage of staff — his Administration has empty seats. The revolving door can hit back."
Shift in power signifies a shift in alliances for lobbyists
London Times, 25 September 2009

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