Take the Flour Back protest and coverage
The anti-GM group ‘Take the Flour Back’ are protesting against a trial of genetically-modified wheat taking place at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire.
The Society of Biology supports the use of GM technology when properly regulated and tested. It is essential to understand how we can feed the growing population in a safe and sustainable way, and genetic modification may provide a significant part of the solution to this challenge. The results of this trial have potential value for food security around the world.
Our Chief Executive Dr Mark Downs has joined other prominent figures in condemning the proposed action. He says: “Trials such as this are essential if we are to determine whether specific GM crop varieties are effective. Tight regulations control GM research to ensure there are no safety risks resulting from the trials, and we therefore support the field testing of GM crops.”
The trial is of wheat variety which has been genetically-modified to contain a gene, normally found in peppermint plants, which repels aphids. The aim is to reduce the use of pesticides and reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture.
Trials in the lab have been very promising, and to evaluate the effectiveness in an agricultural situation it is necessary to move on to field experiments.
Take the Flour Back object to outdoor testing of the crop, partly on the grounds that insects will carry the pollen to other fields and contaminate them. However, wheat is not insect-pollinated, and pollination occurs almost entirely before the flowers open. Excess pollen, which is heavy and lives for only a few hours, then falls to the ground around the plant. Birds and small mammals are kept out of the trial.
The Society of Biology is working with Sense About Science and the Science Media Centre to help inform and facilitate the debate in a coordinated and constructive manner.
There is still chance to sign the Sense About Science petition asking Take the Flour Back not to destroy research.
For more information please see:
Our initial response to the plans for a protest
Detailed information can be found on the Rothamsted website.
Follow the hashtag #dontdestroyresearch on Twitter
New Scientist: If researchers want to make progress with genetically modified crops, they must join their opponents in examining regulation
An extract on GM crops from Mark Henderson’s new book, The Geek Manifesto
GM crops: protesters go back to the battlefields. From The Guardian
We have produced our own analysis of the benefits and challenges associated with GM.