Tag Archives: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.






GM potatoes: not a good use of taxpayers’ money

17 Aug

As reports of trial funded by the rather unwilling taxpayer via the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council quote GM potato scientists, acclaiming the results of research into GM blight resistant potatoes, other experts say it is too early to assess the impact on yields.


Some organisations advocate building on the work of those raising the six non-GM blight resistant Sárpo varieties and three Bioselect, which are said to have given a consistent levels of protection against several blight strains, not demonstrated by the GM variety.

Blight strains change, and conventionally resistant strains can defend themselves well as they have more than one mode of resistance, whereas the GM variety with only one inserted gene will be defenceless when a blight strain evolves.

However, despite the problem of consumer aversion, agroindustrial globalisation is the currently preferred corporate-political path

Agricultural Biotechnology Council chairman Dr Julian Little [opposite: experience in Rhone-Poulenc, Aventis and Bayer CropScience] said:

“British agricultural science . . . is a key tool to help our farmers compete in the global agricultural market”.

Not in this case: the patent belongs to a Dutch researcher  . . .

Compare the GM products with non-subsidised non-GM blight-resistant varieties from Hungarian stock. The Sárpo potatoes have many advantages, described by accomplished horticulturist Alys Fowler,  and an excellent flavour – demonstrated at a chef’s presentation of cooked Sárpo Mira, Sárpo Axona, Sárpo Una and Blue Danube potatoes in London. They are described by the Sárvári Research Trust, a not-for-profit company based near Bangor in North Wales, as hardy, with a low carbon-footprint and resistant to common viruses.

A review by Dr Eva Novotny, first published in Scientists for Global Responsibility’s 2010 Winter newsletter adds:

“They can be grown in poor soils and stored without refrigeration. Some varieties even enjoy drought resistance. These potatoes are receiving glowing  reports from Ireland, with Wales and Scotland also showing growing  interest. They are popular in box schemes and farmers’ markets.”

A more substantial article by Dr Novotny was published on the Institute of Science in Society‘s website and a fully referenced version of this paper is posted on ISIS members website and can be downloaded here, for a fee by non-members.

UK seed companies and small research foundations which will develop and assess non-GM varieties at a fraction of the cost and are well worth the encouragement of a responsible British research funding body.