Fortress security for GM wheat trial

 

Past two barriers of security, a mile inside the Rothamsted Research centre, I was taken to see what must be the most closely guarded field in the United Kingdom.

With groups of police and security guards dotting the lanes throughout this centre, a relatively small plot of land lies behind high steel fencing.

This is where genetically modified wheat is being grown, part of an experiment to see if the plants can repel a common pest, aphids, without having to resort to insecticide.

One of a small group of journalists, I was allowed through the fencing into the plot itself - this is crop science conducted inside a fortress.

Under a blazing sun, the earth was baked dry, and the GM wheat, a pale green, twitched and fluttered in the breeze.

The wheat is being cultivated in small squares, surrounded by other plants which will be checked to see if they are contaminated by the wheat.

The plants themselves look unremarkable and it was a strange sensation making the visit under such stringent conditions.

Walkie-talkies crackled, a police helicopter hovered overhead and acres of day-glo clothing were apparent on the guards monitoring the perimeter.

The initiative to take journalists inside the trial site is part of a major PR offensive by the scientists and their backers to be open and transparent about the research - in an effort to explain its value to the public.

The director of the centre, Professor Maurice Moloney, has been giving endless interviews this morning to describe the work.

His appeal is simple: let us do the experiment to see if this technique makes sense.

For the community of plant scientists, and its supporters in government and the wider world of science, this is a vital test of strength.

The planned protest by anti-GM campaigners, Take the Flour Back, is gathering at the edge of the centre.

Their argument is that the risks of conducting GM trials in the open are too great and that the site should be "decontaminated".

No one can be sure how this will play out. I'm off to see the protestors now.

 
David Shukman Article written by David Shukman David Shukman Science editor

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  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 46.

    Here is a handy guide about GM Foods.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/find_out/guides/tech/gm_foods/newsid_1746000/1746923.stm

    I hope it is not too technical for the average BBC HYS poster to understand.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 45.

    Ahhhh GM food is evil and harms you! Source? And not Fox News or the Daily Mail, peer-reviewed scientific papers published in a decent journal which actually show a statistically significant effect. Otherwise none of you have a leg to stand on and you're just regurgitating headlines which you agreed with in the first place. Try harder or keep your hands off while the adults work.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    EdH how do you know it will be better for the bees. The whole point is you are adding or subtracting an element without knowing what the effect is on everything else. for example make the plant resistant to green fly will not kill the green fly but make other plants more atractive to them. This could lead to serious even deadly effects to mankind

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    Concerns about corporate control of patents etc is a seperate issue from the GM technology itself. If you oppose companies developing a technology, support state-funded development of that technology.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 42.

    The problem is Monsanto not GM crops!

    I only eat what Monsanto executives eat, and that is not the food they grow. They don't even serve the food they grow at their cafeteria.


    There are many problems with the way Monsanto forces farmers around the world into using there seeds.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    We have been modifiing plants and animals for thousands of years to improve the quality and yealds. GM is the next stage of our attempts to make these changes, what ever we do we need to take care that we do not create something that we can not control or reverse.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 40.

    I agree with the protestors on this one we dont need GM food and we dont need or want the risk of contaminating non GM sources. Those countries that do have food supply problems are invariably those that also have conflict and civil war, I dont see GM foods fixing that anytime soon.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 39.

    GM crops may have health risks. Yet allergies to huge numbers of (organic, natural) foods already exist. If we're going to ban GM crops because they *may* have health risks, then we should ban peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, apples, peaches, pears, jackfruit, strawberries etc etc...(basically anything can cause allergies).

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 38.

    We do not need GM at all. Food can be grown to feed the current human population. Efforts should be devoted to population reduction and the worst situation is what we have: pullulation and its use as a justification for GM use. Ask any amphibian - if you can find one.
    If anyone believes that Monsanto is the saviour of the planet they need to see a doctor..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    Ananda
    Thank you for the heads up on 'Seeds of Deception' I'll get it watched.
    I hadn't heard about the deformities & GM sickness in Danish pigs, almost every day I seem to read some new horror facts about GM food. The whole thing is a nightmare yet most of the public are being kept in the dark about how real the danger of this is to them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 36.

    I have nothing against GM crops per-se. I do object to the idea that a change to a mass produced plant has anything to do with producing more food when it is really about increase profits and market share,
    There are simple tried and tested methods that produce far more food per land area than even the best mass production methods. They need more man power.
    And that's what we want to feed no?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 35.

    Man made global warming is on the back burner.

    Bring on the next agenda by the BBC, GM food.
    Lord help us!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 34.

    Most studies showing negative effects are seriously amateur, feeding rats only soya would undoubtedly result in health issues from malnutrition, and consequently death. Then there's the fact that both the Russian tests could not rule out insecticides being the cause of deformities and health issues. Google "Round up on rats" notice the similarity in testes symptoms...........

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 33.

    My loaf of bread was in the room watching the demonstration on TV and suddenly grabbed the remote and switched it off !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 32.

    I'm fairly anti GM, believe it should be carefully controlled & that some uses of the technology should be banned but having seen the details of this test, its not a threat to anyone, creating this level of hysteria over a pretty innocuous test just makes anti-GM movement look like raving loonies. There are real anti-gm battles to be fought but this isn't one of them.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 31.

    Ananda, I would like to see this "research" that everyone keeps talking about. Do you have any understanding of what a GM crop actually is. Or what GM actually does? Speek to any chemist and biochemist and it is mearly a differant protien. Need i remind you of Golden rice? A rice that contains more vitman A it has the potential to save millions of lives. The 90% was a number fox news made up.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 30.

    perhaps the GM companies should pay for all this extra security

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 29.

    25. Semisatanic
    Instead of saying
    "WE DO NOT WANT GM FOODS!!!!"

    try saying

    "I DO NOT WANT GM FOODS!!!!"

    There is a difference.

    You don't speak for everyone.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 28.

    It is not plants that need to be modified it is humans, the danger to the planet is the out of control human breeding that needs to be addressed. Instead of wasting time and money on this set up contraception aid so no humans can produce more than 2 children.

    Otherwise the planet and the 'precious' human burden will be destroyed anyway.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 27.

    I see the ignorant are out in force again.

    Half truths, conjecture and ignorance dressed up as knowing streetwise cynicism. The third highest rated posting here called for less insecticides - thats what this does. It doesnt, kill bees.

    Odd, they will be the first to complain if crops fail and the price goes up.

 

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