Monsanto, the US biotechnology company involved in developing genetically engineered crops, has appointed a former consumer champion and critic of the genetically modified food industry as its first UK spin-doctor.
Ann Foster, director of the Scottish Consumer Council, becomes Monsanto’s first permanent lobbyist, with a brief to improve communication with consumers, retailers and manufacturers about the benefits of genetically modified foods.
Consumer groups and green activists have opposed the introduction of genetically modified soya beans into UK products. The beans are indistinguishable from traditional crops and manufacturers have refused to label products which contain the modified ingredients.
At a convention in October, Foster was reported as saying: “This is all about consumer choice, which threatens to be totally undermined by the lack of label information.
“We want manufacturers and retailers to take strong action – whether that is insisting on segregation, voluntary labelling, looking at alternative product formulations or investigating other sources of supply.”
As director of public and government affairs UK, Foster takes over from Marcia Hale, who established a UK office for Monsanto in May when she began the search for permanent director.
Foster, who takes up her new post on January 1 1998, was a member of the Pennington Group, set up to investigate the events leading up to the deaths of 20 people from E coli. She is a member of several government advisory committees, including the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food & Nutrition.
Monsanto has appointed Bartle Bogle Hegarty to investigate an advocacy campaign. Earlier this month, five naked protestors climbed onto the roof of BBH’s offices to object to Monsanto (MW October 9).