15 Jul 2011

£1.28m public money being spent to push GM wheat

Non-Gm potatoes grown in my allotment
In the UK previous efforts to develop GM wheat had been abandoned due to strong market rejection.  However Rothamsted Research, who carried out field trials for GM wheat in 1998-2001, have now applied for a field trial of the GM wheat in 2012 and 2013 on its Hertfordshire farm. This is despite major wheat exporting countries like Australia and Canada having said they won’t use GM wheat as there’s no market.

The Forest Friends of the Earth newsletter this month alerted me to the details. Click read more to see the details based on that article.

The trial will test a crop genetically modified to produce aphid “alarm” chemicals that cause the insects to stop feeding and to take flight. Aphids naturally produce this chemical, known as EBF when attacked by predators. A non-GM approach using the aphid alarm chemical has already been shown to work. This is similar to when the GM industry tried to develop a GM potato immune to potato blight.  There is already a natural variety of potato in Hungary resistant to potato blight and a company in N.Wales has produced and is selling to growers a non-GM blight resistant commercial potato from that Hungarian variety.

Globally Agro-ecology (agricultural practises based on sound ecological science) has shown to be very effective re yields, pests, etc.  More funding for agroecology-based solutions to pest problems is what is needed.  GM in contrast has been shown in the field to fail in many ways – poor yield; greater cost (seed and pesticide); loss in effectiveness, even to the extent that the fields have to be hand-weeded due to the weeds clogging machinery. These effects have occurred in the US where initially farmers thought GM was the miracle product!
Then there are the effects on people’s health and on communities, especially in poor areas. Apart from GM ‘products’ having failed to deliver there are other reasons to reject the application including:
·                The lack of any data on potential health effects of the GM wheat.
·                There is an antibiotic resistant marker (ARM) gene present - this may contribute to a rise in resistant infections in humans and animals (European Medicines Agency).
·                The risk of cross-contamination with other wheat crops and some grasses.
·                Unknown impacts on predator and parasite popns, which already provide some aphid infestation control.             
·                Unknown impacts on nearby non-GM farms from displaced aphids.
·                Possible desensitisation of aphids to the alarm chemical if it’s constantly produced by the wheat plants.
·                Serious doubts about whether the GM wheat will work as stated.
·                The lack of a market for GM wheat anywhere on the planet means it is a waste of time & money.

There are many other possible options for using the affect of EBF on aphids which do not involve GM, including some identified by Rothamsted Research; these should be fully explored using any unspent public money allocated to the GM wheat project. GM Freeze say rejecting the application would allow time for a debate on the ethics of using synthetic genes reassembling animal genes in crop plants, as is the case with the GM wheat. GM Freeze says the applicants need to make more information available about these genes & their origins.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:  “This application is a clear sign that the UK agricultural research funding is still firmly set on developing GM crops and that public money is being poured in to make it happen."

The deadline for objections to the application to run a test site for GM wheat in 2012 and 2013 from Rothamsted Research is 19th August.  Details are to be found here plus some reasons to say no!  http://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/briefings/116/
NOTE:   A new report re other of GM’s atrocious stuff: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57277946/RoundupandBirthDefectsv5

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