Pallab Ghosh


Pallab Ghosh

Pallab Ghosh (born 1962) is a science correspondent for BBC News. Born in Cuttack, India, he came to the United Kingdom in 1963, and has been a science journalist since 1984. He won the Media Natura Environment Award, and BT's Technology Journalist of the Year.fact|date=March 2008

He has interviewed notable figures including first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, creator of the internet Tim Berners Lee, and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. Ghosh has covered subjects including the human genome project, cloning, stem cell research and genetically modified (GM) crops.

Career

He began his career in the British Electronics and Computer Press before joining "New Scientist" as the magazine's Science News Editor. Ghosh joined BBC News in 1989. He worked as a general news producer on BBC Radio 4's "The World at One" and then went on to become a senior producer on the "Today Programme".

As science correspondent, Ghosh has broken several important stories, notably the cloned Dolly the sheep having arthritis, and the abandonment of the construction of a primate research centre by Cambridge University because of fears of attacks from animal rights activists.

Reporting

Ghosh's reporting of GM crops has caused controversy. In 2003 he reported that farmers in India were cross-breeding Monsanto's GM cotton with their own local varieties. The Monsanto variety was unsuited to the local weather conditions and had performed badly in the previous harvest. The Indian Government had already set up an expert panel that concluded that Monsanto's GM cotton was "unfit for cultivation and should be banned". It was claimed by local manufacturers that the home-produced variety was more robust, and local farmers were hopeful that they would be able to improve crop yieds without paying Monsanto's higher prices. Ghosh reported, however that the home grown product if anything seemed to perform even less well. [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2998150.stm |title=India's GM seed piracy |author=Ghosh, Pallab |date=17 June, 2003 |work=BBC News |accessdate=2008-03-27]

Protato

Another report from India by Ghosh was about the GM "protato", a potato genetically modified to produce increased protein. The item reported claims by the head of the Indian Government's head of Biotechnology, Dr Manju Sharma that she was "very confident" that the GM potato was "expected to be approved in India within six months." [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2980338.stm |title=India 'to approve GM potato'
author=Ghosh, Pallab |date=11 June, 2003 |work=BBC News |accessdate=2008-03-27
] This was at odds with Indian press reports that "no request has so far been received from developers for field trials or commercialisation of GM potato and... it cannot be approved in the current year."fact|date=March 2008

The key claim by the creators of the protato was about its potential to counter malnutrition. Pallab reported skeptical views about the need for the protato, and pointed out that lentils in the form of "dal" already provided a cheap and widely accepted protein-rich foodstuff. The Indian press also questioned the claims in March 2003. The publicity generated by Ghosh's report has caused irritation even amongst pro-GM scientists in India.fact|date=March 2008 Prof. C. Kameswara Rao calls the GM potato a "dismal product" and points out that, far from being approved within months, the protato is "unlikely to see the light of the day in this decade."fact|date=March 2008

GM and the BMA

In 2003 Ghosh reported that the Science Board of the British Medical Association (BMA) was reviewing the organisation's precautionary approach to GM crops and food. [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2494267.stm |title=Doctors want GM crop ban |author=Ghosh, Pallab |date=20 November, 2002 |work=BBC News |accessdate=2008-03-27] There was particular concern that the Zambian Government had cited the BMA's advice, that health risks could not be ruled out, as part of the reason it had turned away much needed grain shipments during a food shortage. [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2711801.stm |title=Doctors review GM crop evidence |date=31 January, 2003 |work=BBC News |accessdate=2008-03-27] The BMA issued a press release the same day quoting its spokesperson Vivienne Nathanson, which stated that the BBC report was "wrong" and "totally incorrect."fact|date=March 2008 The following year The BMA admitted it had indeed reviewed its stance on GM crops, and decided that new research suggested that GM crops posed no health risk. [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3545717.stm |title=UK doctors alter tack to back GMs |author=Kirby, Alex |date=9 March, 2004 |work=BBC News |accessdate=2008-03-27] The BMA has repeatedly said that at the time of Ghosh's report it had not changed its policy and had no plans to do so.fact|date=March 2008

Árpád Pusztai

In 1999 Ghosh also reported critically on Dr Árpád Pusztai's work on the possible health effects of GM potatoes. This is what Dr Pusztai had to say about Ghosh's coverage: " [he] came up to Aberdeen after the Royal Society and the Science and Technology Committee's sitting [in 1999] , and he was all smiles and extremely accommodating, but when the interview went out on the BBC he twisted everything out of context. So much so that I decided not to have anything more to do with the BBC."fact|date=March 2008 Dr Pusztai's work was also dismissed as "flawed" by an independent scientific review panel. [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/346826.stm |title=GM Food report condemned as flawed |date=May 18, 1999 |work=BBC News |accessdate=2008-03-27]

Leadership

Ghosh is President of the World Federation of Science Journalists, and is a past chairman of the Association of British Science Writers. In thse roles he has attempted to promote a more direct approach to science journalism, with the introduction of national and international prizes for investigative journalism.

Ghosh has also introduced schemes to get people from more diverse backgrounds into the higher levels of science journalism. He believes that those reporting on scientific issues that increasingly have a social dimension should be more representative of their community.

References


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