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Petitioning Defra UK Government

Stop the government and in particular Owen Patterson from privatising the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera),

In what can only be described as a privatisation too far, Owen Patterson  has defended government plans to seek a private investor for its environmental science agency.

The Guardian reported on Monday that plans were in motion to open up the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), which undertakes research on pesticides, bee health, GM safety, alien pests and food-testing, to a joint venture with investment from the private sector.

On Thursday Paterson announced a procurement exercise to find a partner for the joint venture that will "free it [Fera] from public sector constraints." The Guardian understands 29 organisations have expressed an interest.

Paterson claimed the move would "protect and enhance its [Fera's] scientific capabilities in the long term". 

He added: "Procuring the right external partner, with the necessary commercial expertise and experience will help Fera to maximise its market potential and grow its non-government revenue."

He appeared to reference union concerns that long-term science issues will suffer under commercial pressures and that private sector involvement will lead to job cuts. "I am also confident that a joint venture would offer new opportunities to Fera’s staff."

This agency carries out inportant research and has distinct areas of responsibility

Regulation, policy and risk

We carry statutory responsibility for delivering inspectorate functions in relation to Plant HealthBee HealthPlant Varieties and Seeds, and Genetically Modified Organisms. We also support policy development on these issues, which is the responsibility of Defra. Across Government, we work closely with the lead authorities and agencies to support policy development in a number of other areas.

Research and assurance
We provide robust scientific evidence, rigorous analysis and professional advice to Government, international organisations and the private sector.

Response and recovery
Fera is an essential element of the nation's capability to respond to, and recover from, emergency situations. Fera's Government Decontamination Service has a specific remit to provide advice, guidance and support to those responsible for dealing with the consequences of an accidental or deliberate release of hazardous materials (HazMats) or Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) materials.

It is hard to imagine a corporation or private bidder without some sort of conflict of interest in this agency. Help me to say no to this sell-off too far.

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