GM Crops conference

The idea is a simple one. Transfer desirable genes from a donor organism into a plant to improve the recipient’s resistance to disease or herbicides, productivity or nutritional properties. Through genetically modified (GM) crops our problems of food supply would be solved or at least alleviated. But simplicity can be deceptive, and the controversy over GM crops and food has many different areas of concern. Are we “playing God” by moving genes between organisms and manipulating creation to this degree? As Christians, what are the ethical and theological implications? Is there a risk to food safety and what are the potential environmental dangers? And could a small number of multinational companies create a stranglehold over the food chain? Will GM crops help the developing world or become another means by which the developed world maintains control? The Redcliffe College and JRI Environment Day explored these questions and more.

Photo of Joe Perry, Christopher Jones, Martin Hodson, and John Weaver
Joe Perry, Christopher Jones, Martin Hodson, John Weaver (left to right)

The conference was chaired by Margot Hodson, JRI Director. After an introduction to the day from Andy Kingston-Smith of Redcliffe College, the first talk was by Joe Perry on “Genetically modified organisms – agriculture, ecology and food – theology and safety”. The next talk, by John Weaver, was on “The ethics and theology of genetically modified crops”. Martin Hodson then spoke on “Genetically modified crops: policy and globalisation issues”. The final talk was on “GM Crops: a farmer’s view” by Christopher Jones MBE. Also three students from Redcliffe College gave presentations on environmental themes. Below are links to video and audio recordings (the audio files are about ten times smaller), and two Powerpoint slideshows.

Andy Kingston-Smith

Introduction to the conference by Andy Kingston-Smith, Lecturer in Justice and Mission at Redcliffe College.

Audio recording:

Video recording:

Joe Perry

Audio recording:

Video recording:

Dr Joe Perry’s slideshow Powerpoint

Photo of field with GM crops

Joe Perry worked for Rothamsted Research for 30 years, in the area of quantitative methods applied to ecology. He was jointly responsible for the design and analysis of the UK Farm Scale Evaluations of GM crops. He is currently Chair of the Genetically Modified Organisms Expert Panel of the European Food Safety Authority. He likes gardening, playing the organ and playing cricket, but not simultaneously.

John Weaver

Audio recording:

Video recording:

John Weaver was born and brought up in Cardiff. After taking degrees in Geology at Swansea, he taught at the University of Derby. John trained for Baptist ministry in Oxford and was then pastor of Highfield Baptist Church from 1981-1991. From 1992- 2001 he taught theology at Regent‟s Park College, Oxford, and from 2001-2012 served as Principal of South Wales Baptist College. He is a former President of the Baptist Union, and is the Chair of JRI. His main areas of research are: relating faith to life and work; theological reflection; adult education; and the dialogue between science and faith.

Martin Hodson

Audio recording:

Video recording:

Dr Martin Hodson’s slideshow Powerpoint:
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Martin Hodson took his degrees in Botany at Swansea. He then had postdoctoral contracts in Bangor, Jerusalem, Toronto and Birmingham, and arrived at Oxford Brookes University in 1989. Martin‟s research has mostly been in plant mineral nutrition, and particularly aluminium toxicity and silica deposition. He recently published Functional Biology of Plants an undergraduate text book which he co-authored with John Bryant of Exeter University. Martin is Operations Manager for JRI.

Christopher Jones

Audio recording:

Video recording:

Christopher Jones MBE gained a degree in Agriculture from Oxford University in 1959. He has a long association with the Church Mission Society (CMS), working in Nigeria and Kenya from 1963-74. Since 1975 he has farmed in Northamptonshire, UK. From 1984-95 he was Chair of the CMS Standing Committee and from 1994-2007 was National Coordinator of Farm Crisis Network, for which he remains Honorary President. He was chairman of the UK Food group from 1996-98. Christopher was awarded an MBE in June 2011 “For services to Agriculture”.

Panel Discussion

Featuring Joe Perry, Martin Hodson, Christopher Jones, and John Weaver.

Audio recording:

Video recording:

Students from Redcliffe College

Short talks (not on GM crops but on environmental topics) were given by two students taking the Justice M.A. at Redcliffe College: Anne Danks (West Midlands Regional Development Officer for FoodBanks), and Nathan Kiyaga (from Uganda).

Video recording:

The conference brochure.