GM wheat trial promises fiery TV debate

Philip Case
Thursday 17 May 2012

Article published in Farmers Weekly – see the original article.

Campaigners are set to lock horns with the scientists behind the GM wheat trial at Rothamsted Research in a live studio television debate.

Conventional wheat grower Peter Lundgren is expected to join other GM sceptics for the debate, hosted by BBC’s Newsnight on Thursday, 17 May.

The programme will feature footage of Lincolnshire grower Mr Lundgren questioning the value of Rothamsted’s £1.28m GM crop trial, which is designed to repel aphids, a major crop pest in wheat.

In footage recorded for the programme, Mr Lundgren points out that every major British supermarket currently rejects GM food ingredients.

He also says: “Serious aphid infestations on spring wheat are infrequent, control costs are low and aphid outbreaks are often controlled naturally by predators.

“Why are we spending scarce agricultural funding on a trial whose aim is to repel aphids from spring wheat, which only accounts for 1% of the UK crop? This crop won’t help me to feed my family, let alone help farmers feed the world.”

Mr Lundgren will voice concerns about risks posed by the crop, which, if applied commercially, could see aphids pests displaced in other nearby non-GM crops.

For the live TV debate, Dorset farmer Jyoti Fernandes was due to tackle Rothamsted’s chemical ecologist John Pickett, who is leading the trial.

This week, leaders from Rothamsted and the anti-GM group Take the Flour Back, backed by Mr Lundgren and Mr Fernandes, have been staging a tit-for-tat row over the idea of a public debate over the trial.

Rothamsted director Maurice Moloney accused Take the Flour Back of ignoring his offer last month of a public debate.

But Take the Flour Back hit back, saying the group had published on open letter on its website on 2 May, inviting Rothamsted to engage in a public debate about the trial on “neutral ground”.

The group is planning a “mass protest” on 27 May at the trial site in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. They have warned they will tear up the experimental trial unless it is stopped immediately.

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