Scientists urge protestors not to trash GM trials

SCIENTISTS involved in the genetically modified (GM) wheat trial currently taking place in Hertfordshire have urged protestors not go ahead with plans to trash the site.

A ‘mass protest’ under the banner ‘Take Back the Flour’ is planned for May 27 at the Rothamsted Research institute site, where plots of wheat that will constitute the trial were sown in March.

On a website promoting the protest, organisers invite members of the public to ‘stop the open-air release of GM Wheat that contains genes most similar to that of a cow’.

It says: “Take the Flour Back’ will be a nice day out in the country, with picnics, music from Seize the Day and a decontamination. It’s for anyone who feels able to publically help remove this threat and those who want to show their support for them.”

Eight Rothamsted scientists involved in the trials, led by Professor John Pickett, have taken the unprecedented step today (May 2) of publishing an open letter addressed to Take Back the Flour. They urge the protest organisers to read it ‘in the spirit of openness and dialogue’.

“We know we cannot stop you from taking the action you plan, nor would we wish to see force used against you. Therefore we can only appeal to your consciences, and ask you to reconsider before it is too late, and before years of work to which we have devoted our lives are destroyed forever,” the letter says.

The trial is looking at whether wheat engineered to release an aphid repellent could reduce the need for treating crops with pesticides. The scientists argue that the crop could  ‘substantially reduce the use of agricultural chemicals’ and therefore deliver environmental benefits for future generations.

“Are you really against this? Or are you simply against it because it is ‘GMO’ and you therefore think it is unnatural in some way,” the scientists say.

“To suggest that we have used a ‘cow gene’ and that our wheat is somehow part-cow betrays a misunderstanding which may serve to confuse people or scare them but has no basis in scientific reality.”

The scientists urge the protestors to allow the trial to go ahead so that any doubts about the crop, such as ‘whether the aphid alarm pheromone as found in this GM crop would even work’, can be directly addressed.

“As activists you might prefer never to know whether our new wheat variety would work , but we believe you are in a minority – in a democratic society most people do value factual knowledge and understand that it is necessary for sensible decision making.”

They offer to meet the protestors on May 27 and ‘show you our work and explain why we think it could benefit the environment in the future’.

The letter concludes: “As scientists we know only too well that we do not have all the answers. That is why we need to conduct experiments. And that is why you in turn must not destroy them.”

Readers' comments (5)

  • That is the wrong question to ask, whether or not it will work. The real questions are much tougher to answer - harm to humans, harm to the environment, to non-GM crops, to animals and insects. This is why activists DO what they do: because science is only partially science based. Until science moves back into all aspects of "real science" we will continue to take action. Get the Corporation out of the equation...

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  • Amazing society, so many people on a 'moral high', I have the right to do what I do because what you do is morally incorrect.

    Rather akin to Christianity in the Middle ages, 'I kill you in the name of God', all because the person had a different view on Christianity.

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  • To see the open letter sent by Take the Flour Back to Rothamsted, detailing their valid concerns, and responding to Rothamsted's "plea" - see here:

    Rothamsted should not be doing open air trials with a UK food staple , when the public don't want it, farmers don't need it, and bakers won't be able to sell it. We endanger our succesful wheat export market. And when you see the nightmare experience of US & Canadian farmers, the lawsuits over patents, the increased chemical use (or is that sales?!) see that the biotech industry is a very wealthy force, but not one for good, or indeed helping farmers. DEFRA are biased. People worldwide are taking action, from India, to France and Germany. 70% of EU citizens still consider GM food "fundamentally unnatural" (EU Barometer 2011). We are not in the minority, they just have paid PR and do a slick job, while the concerned everyman is slandered in the press.

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  • If you support the right for this research to take place then please go along on the 27th to counter-protest.

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  • Well, what is really interesting is that I went on Rothamsted Wheat Trial website and they refused to post not one but two of my comments. If you go to their website you will see a comment from Christine Whatson to which I wanted to reply. Here is my comment, which was never published. I guess now we all know they have something to hide:

    Hi Christne,
    Actually, this has been attempted before and it resulted in disaster. Monsanto deceitfully introduced bt cotton in India which has lead to thousands of farmers committing suicide when crops failed to deliver with everybody exposed developing skin allergies and eating disorders.
    Please take a look at this article:

    You can simply Google: 'bt cotton India farmers suicide', you will have enough to read, trust me.

    Sheep that was allowed to graze on the plants after cotton was harvested displayed an incredibly high mortality rate. Here is some further reading:

    This is what they are gambling with. I posted an article yesterday on this website with a link to Jeffrey Smith's video 'Seeds of deception' but it was never published. I guess they 'ahem' forgot so here it is again:

    Everybody knows, apart from Rothamsted scientists that cases of cross-polination have been recorded miles and miles away from the source. And do you know how wide is the 'safety zone' around their crops? 10 meters.
    I guess the approach here is 'lets release into the environment, we'll worry about the consequences later on'. It cannot be allowed to happen.

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