Scientists send open letter to anti-GM protesters pleading with them not to destroy 'years of work'
Scientists working on a new generation of genetically modified crops have sent an open letter to anti-GM protesters pleading with them not to destroy “years of work” by attacking their research plots.
The activist group, Take the Flour Back, has pledged to carry out a “decontamination” at a test site in Hertfordshire, where agricultural researchers are growing the world’s first genetically modified wheat that can repel insect pests by emitting a repellent-smelling substance.
Appealing to the protesters as fellow “environmentalists”, scientists from Rothamsted Research led by Professor John Pickett called on the group to “reconsider before it is too late”.
“Our research is trying to shed light on questions about the safety and usefulness of new varieties of the staple food crops on which all of us depend,” the scientists write. “(…)We do not see how preventing the acquisition of knowledge is a defensible position in an age of reason.”
The pheromone exuded by the new strain of “whiffy” wheat is naturally produced by “frightened” aphids as a warning signal to deter other aphids. However, activists claim that the wheat contains an artificial gene “most similar to a cow” and that open air trials represent an “imminent contamination threat to the local environment and the UK wheat industry”.
Scientists said that the suggestion they had used a cow gene “betrays a misunderstanding which may serve to confuse people or scare them but has no basis in scientific reality”.
Matt Thomson, from Take the Flour Back, told The Independent yesterday that action against the Rothamsted site would go ahead as planned.
“The concerns that we have are not addressed in this letter,” he said. “The way that Rothamsted have publicised this trial has been patronising. This wheat contains genes that are not naturally occurring.” Mr Thomson said that the allegation about cow genes in the wheat had come from comments made by a Rothamsted scientist.
The new strain of wheat could combat aphid attacks, which can cause damage upwards of £120m a year, without the need for pesticides, scientists claim. It is one of several “second generation” GM crops that scientists hope will prove more acceptable to the British public than the herbicide-tolerant, commercially-grown GM crop strains that provoked environmental concerns and widespread protests in the 1990s. The Take the Flour Back group claims to include “bakers, retailers, growers and grassroots food campaigners”
Scientists from Rothamsted, which was founded in 1843, pledged to explain their work to demonstrators on 27 May, the date set for the action.
“When you visit us on 27 May we will be available to meet and talk to you,” they write. “We would welcome the chance to show you our work and explain why we think it could benefit the environment in the future. But we must ask you to respect the need to gather knowledge unimpeded. Please do not come to damage and destroy.”
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness contradicts athlete version
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
South Korea ferry: Captain Lee Joon-seok could face criminal investigation as over 280 remain missing
Peaches Geldof dead: Private funeral for the family and friends of the socialite will take place next week
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 The Hobbit: There and Back Again set for possible title change
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...