Carlo Leifert is not so keen on his press coverage at the moment. The Newcastle University professor, who works at the Tesco Centre of Organic Agriculture, said: "We are an agronomy support organisation. I would rather be in the press for that work than for this" (his resignation from the genetic modification science review panel). Professor Leifert thinks GM food is risky and unnecessary and he refused to put his name to the review, feeling his views were not being heard because he felt the panel had a pro-GM bias.
He has been professor of ecological agriculture since 2000, and previously lectured at the universities of Aberdeen, Manchester and Central Lancashire, as well as working for Neo Plants Ltd and Howegarden Ltd.
Professor Leifert is working on several projects at the organic agriculture centre, which he set up in 2001 with £425,000 investment from Tesco.
They include fertility management in potatoes and avoiding use of pesticides in cucumber production.
In 2001, he helped set up a project to improve the production of organic crops. The aim was to reduce the cost of organic produce, enabling it to compete with conventional agriculture. The centre also helped in trials that showed that an eastern European potato is apparently resistant to the potato blight that prevents organic potato production meeting demand.
Professor Leifert sees his work as reducing herbicide use and encouraging sustainable agriculture. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Trade and Industry and the European Union have supported his work, but up to 50 per cent of funding has come from the industry.
Professor Leifert, who is German, took his first degree at the University of Gottingen. He settled in the UK after meeting his English wife on a desert agriculture project in Israel.