Jenny Jones

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Jenny Jones is a Green Party member of the London Assembly and was the party's 2012 candidate for Mayor of London. Prior to becoming a politician she studied archaeology at University College London, and then worked at digs in the Middle East analysing carbonised plant remains[1][2].

Mayoral use of statistics

In March 2011 Ms Jones asked the Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson if he would commit the GLA to "following the Code of Practice for Official Statistics to promote public trust in the use of statistics"[3]. This was in the context of criticism of Johnson for releasing statistics as part of a media event ahead of the official publication[4] while another Green Party AM references the Mayor's use of unpublished housing statistics[5].

Genetically Modified Organisms

During the 2012 mayoral election campaign, in response to a couple of tweets (one mentioning Green Party's record on evidence[6]), Ms Jones tweeted a brief note about her views on GM:

"Am a scientist myself @Psythor I studied ancient plants, their characteristics & uses. So I'm totally against GM - can't predict outcomes."[7]

When questioned on this she responded:

"We're not talking about research in a lab @petehague @Psythor This=letting loose plant strains w/o knowing impact on other plant forms. Daft"[8]

In May 2012, a news article on the Green Party's website[9] noted that Ms Jones would be attending the "Take the Flour Back" protest in Hertfordshire against a trial of a wheat variety engineered to (it was hoped) repel aphids. The protest was described in the Green Party's news item as a "public picnic and mass decontamination", widely read as meaning deliberately damaging the trial crops. The following quote was from Ms Jones:

"There is no public appetite for GM food. Consumers don't want to eat it, farmers are resistant to growing it and currently shops don't wish to stock it. Despite pro GM groups claims to the contrary, genetic engineering has so far failed to produce disease resistant crops. Monsanto's attempts to develop a virus-resistant sweet potato in Kenya proved embarrassing when trials revealed that the GM crop was less resistant to disease than conventional varieties."[9]

(The claim that "genetic engineering has so far failed to produce disease resistant crops" is looked at here, you may also want to look at Bacillus thuringiensis.)

The scientists involved in the trial had released a video and an open letter to the protesters[10] to explain their views about the trial, as well as providing an online response to specific questions[11]. The Green Party linked to a response to the scientists' first letter from the protest organisers[12].

Following criticism on Twitter, Ms Jones tweeted a link "For those who want to understand anti GM concern, on why it won't feed the world or be a miracle cure: http://www.gmfreeze.org/".[13]

Following a critical blog post by Daily Telegraph writer Tom Chivers[14], he posted a response by Ms Jones[15] where, amongst other points, she noted:

"The Green Party's position on GM is precautionary and sceptical (read our policy here). We think more research is needed, and are happy to see research go ahead where it is safe. But we must be sceptical when experts downplay a one per cent risk of contamination (possibly to 9.7 per cent in warm, dry conditions with some wheats). I have read of contamination in other cases in America where similar claims were made. It would be folly to have our conventional and organic farms contaminated by one tiny mistake."

The point about contamination had been addressed by scientists at Rothamsted in their QA[16]:

  • The probability of seeds moving from the trial site or the transfer (via cross-pollination) of inserted characteristics to sexually-compatible species outside the trial area is estimated as very low. Wheat seeds and wheat pollen grains are relatively large and not normally dispersed by wind.
  • In addition, we have put in place strict management procedures to minimise the spread of seeds or pollen, which will further reduce the probability of these events occurring.
  • The GM plots will be separated from the edge of the trial by 10 meters of barley (or space) plus a 3 metre 'pollen barrier' of wheat that helps to contain pollen from the GM plants within the trial site. All these plants are treated as though they are GM and harvested /destroyed at the end of the trial. There will be no cereals grown for 20 metres outside the boundary of the site and no wild relatives of wheat that can cross with our cultivated variety exist in the vicinity.
  • Couch grass species, distant relatives of wheat will be controlled in a 20 metre wide area around the trial site to avoid any slight possibility of cross-pollination.
  • In addition to all this, the actual chances of successful establishment of these wheat plants outside the plot in the wild are extremely low as they are naturally not very competitive with other plants.

Religion

During the 2012 mayoral election campaign, in response to a Twitter question about secularism/religion in public life, Ms Jones tweeted:

"I believe public life shld be separate from religion @Psythor I'm an atheist, but respect religion as a potential force for good."[17]

Animal Manifesto

For the 2012 mayoral election campaign, Jenny Jones issued an Animal Mini-Manifesto. The launch took place besides a memorial statue erected by the National Anti-Vivisection Society[18]. The manifesto[19] includes a variety of policies; we highlight:

  • Work to make London a world centre for non-animal biomedical research.
  • Encourage all establishments in London that conduct research using animals to publically commit to replacing animal experiments with humane alternatives, reducing animal numbers and suffering and improving animal welfare.
  • Encourage a reduction in consumption of meat and dairy produce in catering procurement decisions. Use of organic, higher welfare products would be strongly encouraged when meat, milk or eggs are used.

References

  1. http://www.ai-journal.com/article/view/ai.1320/81
  2. http://www.jennyforlondon.org/about-me/
  3. http://mqt.london.gov.uk/mqt/public/question.do?id=35400
  4. http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/rebuke-for-boris-over-crime-stats/201114220
  5. http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/statistics-authority-vindicates-concerns-over-mayors-announcements/201114230
  6. https://twitter.com/#!/Psythor/status/185372409480740864
  7. https://twitter.com/#!/GreenJennyJones/status/185385665289138177
  8. https://twitter.com/#!/GreenJennyJones/status/185399363927937026
  9. 9.0 9.1 http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/london-assembly-member-jenny-jones-to-join-concerned-members-of-the-public-to-protest-against-gm-crop-trials.html
  10. http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/Content.php?Section=AphidWheat&Page=Protest
  11. http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/Content.php?Section=AphidWheat&Page=QA
  12. http://taketheflourback.org/open-letter-to-rothamsted/
  13. https://twitter.com/GreenJennyJones/status/205631110649098241
  14. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100160423/dont-vote-green-until-they-drop-the-anti-science-zealotry/
  15. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100160469/guest-post-the-green-partys-jenny-jones-responds/
  16. http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/Content.php?Section=AphidWheat&Page=QA - under "Health and safety questions"
  17. https://twitter.com/#!/GreenJennyJones/status/185390426033897473
  18. http://www.jennyforlondon.org/brian-may-launches-animal-mini-manifesto/
  19. http://www.jennyforlondon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Green-2012-animal-manifesto.pdf

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