Letter:Fascist GM protests

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Thanks are due to Roy Hattersley (Notebook, 21 August) for saying what a section of the scientific community has felt for some time. Yes, "destroying GM test crops is an essentially Fascist activity" because it has been based on a disregard for truth.

Scientists involved in plant genetic engineering know they are developing a technology which has the potential to improve both the efficiency and environment-friendliness of agriculture. The widespread and largely hysterical opposition to GM crops in this country has left many of us baffled.

The "anti" lobby has mounted a campaign which the scientific community has been unable to match in volume, or in news-grabbing soundbites, despite the efforts of the Royal Society, among others.

Why have the scientists not been more active in rebutting many misleading statements? Good scientists are concerned with truth. There is no evidence that GM crops have damaged the environment or are harmful to human health. However, it is possible to imagine circumstances in which these outcomes could be produced, and therefore a good scientist must recognise these possibilities. Balanced views do not make news.

The anti-GM lobby appears to believe that GM crops are inherently evil, and therefore a balanced view is irrelevant.

Perhaps "Fascist"is rather too strong a term for what is more like irresponsibility, or even silliness. One of my elderly relatives always maintained that the weather had got worse since "all these astronauts started whizzing about up in the sky". The fuss about GM crops has certain similarities to this attitude - with the big difference that very few people seem to be able to see the funny side.


Department of Biological Sciences

University of Durham