John Selwyn Gummer
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) (1989-1993)
Junior Minister of Agriculture (1985-1988)
Made a peer now Lord Deben, Chair of UK’s Committee on Climate Change (2016)
Throughout his tenure as Agriculture Minister John Gummer was urged by many independent scientists and experts to put human health before profit. Stephen Dealler who lost funding due to speaking out told me “Even when we had enough evidence to proof the dangers of BSE MAFF wouldn’t listen. I know of a scientist who was threatened with prison if he talked about his findings outside of Whitehall” (May 2008).
It wasn’t just scientists who challenged John Gummer about BSE policy, also numerous independent consumer groups wanted to ban MRM, prohibit dangerous practices in slaughterhouses and put strict and more stringent precautions in place regarding BSE to protect the UK’s well being. But John Gummer and Whitehall ignored mounting evidence, and any dissenting voice to government policy, in favour of the money making machine which was the Agriculture Industry.
From 1986 until 1996 the Consumers Association who published the high profile magazines Which? and Which Health? consulted a range of experts to ascertain the risk that BSE posed to human health.
They were deeply concerned about lax controls in abattoirs, and MAFFs “patronising and secretive approach to legitimate consumer concerns.” (June 1990).
The CA investigations resulted in many documents, data and submissions being sent to the Agriculture Committee asking MAFF to instigate asap strict and new “precautionary measures” to protect human health.
Despite CAs evidence, data and concerns MAFF and John Gummer continued to risk the UK publics health allowing BSE infected meat to continue into the food chain playing Russian roulette with our babies and infants lives.
The Consumers Association had their own research team and sourced outside scientists as well as numerous contacts with ministers, mps and government officials. They were so worried at the information they were finding that they issued numerous press releases urging the government to “act now on BSE” Commissioning a survey of the UK population the Consumers Association found that three out of four people agreed with the statement “the government has failed to protect consumers from unsafe food.” AGallup survey found that 60 per cent believed MAFF “to be withholding facts about BSE”. (1990)
In 1990 with mounting outside pressure John Gummer as Minister of Agriculture began to hold regular meetings between himself the CA and other consumer organisations. This PR exercise changed very little, even when the CA challenged MAFF arguing that the Government relied too much on their own scientists and its selective research.
Shelia McKechnie Director stated in her evidence to the BSE Inquiry, the Consumers Association believed that “This approach can not be justified when there is insufficient evidence to quantify the risk.” The same year the CA called for the banning of bovine spinal material in food products also calling for clearer labelling. The CA wanted all foods containing MRM to be labelled so that the British public could then have an informed choice what to feed themselves and their families.
With a desperate need for transparency, honesty and action Shelia McKechnie told the Phillips Inquiry that the CA believed that “more information (should ) be given to consumers about meat products including species, country of origin and the presence of MRM”
John Gummer aware of all the Consumers Association data and submissions did not act on these recommendations. If they had been implemented they would have had huge economic and political repercussions. So John Gummer and the government continued to endorse the anonymous use of MRM for many more years. These toxic foods stuffs containing the highly infectious MRM went secretly into the food chain to feed our most vulnerable children, infants, the elderly and hospital patients. MRM was not banned until five years later in 1995.
Due to John Gummers refusal to ban MRM (Its removal from the food chain food would have had severe repercussions to the agriculture industry and to shareholders profit margins) it meant that with his and the governments endorsement MRM continued to be served daily in schools, colleges, universities and hospital canteens. During those five years the UK experienced the highest levels of BSE in UK herds.
Professor Collinge UCL May 2008 told me, “From 1990-1991 BSE infectivity was at it highest level in cattle and of course in bovine food products.”
Throughout those crucial five years before MRM was banned, my only son Andrew sat down every day to school meals which secretly contained highly infectious MRM, had his childhood vaccines made with bovine material which may well have been contaminated with BSE, whilst the government and MAFF knew of the risks signed my sons death warrant and also put millions of other infants and children’s lives at risk too.
As Shelia McKechnie stated to the Phillips Inquiry “Decisions about measures to control BSE were ultimately political and economic ones.”
John Gummer finally stepped down from being an MP in 2010, he now sits on various ‘Climate change’ forums earning lucrative fees. He is also consultant for Prosper De Mulder PDM, animal waste and human food corporation, which was at the heart of the BSE scandal
He was made a peer and now called Lord Deben and is Chair of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change.
John Gummer’s son Ben Gummer is now a Conservative MP, Ben Gummer’s political career backed and supported by Kenneth Clarke.