ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

Date:  13 March 2001


1.     "Take great care in GM crop research" - EDP
2.      Notes on Prof Jonathan Jones' contribution to a recent South Norfolk District
         Council debate on GM crops by Caroline Clarke

Eastern Daily Press, Saturday March 10, 2001

"Take great care in GM crop research" - In the Countryside, Grace Corne.

In one of his recent nature columns Moss Taylor expressed doubts about the effects of the introduction of genetically modified crops. I am afraid these are doubts that I share.

For almost all of my life I have had an opportunity to observe wild, cultivated and agricultural plants, and it really is a case of "the more you look the more you discover".

The balance and the dependence of the many species of plants both upon each other,' and upon animal and insect species and climatic or soil conditions, is incredibly finely tuned. The whole
system is geared to maintain health and strength, and the rules are strict indeed.

Of  course  there  are  unusual occurrences in nature, and "freaks, sports or hybrids" are produced, but they will have to face a daunting "entrance examination" before they will be allowed to remain on the planet If they fail in any one element of the many trials they must pass, they will perish. That is natural law, and it ensures the safety of our earth.

But what if man in his wisdom bypasses all these checks and introduces a previously unknown species, which, for some reason, he considers to be superior? We have experienced this situation, and it was truly alarming when field tests of GM plants were proposed with boundaries of only
metres between them and other crops.

In this newspaper recently it was acknowledged that a virus can be spread by the wind for almost 40 miles across land and up to 150 miles by sea.

I have just acquired a recent report from the Royal Society of Canada. Part Two is of particular interest and carries a cautionary note in almost every section. Canada has miles of space to
which  it  was  thought  varying experimental patches could be well isolated from each other with no risks. Three classes of GM oil-seed rape were selected, one resistant to glyphosate, one to glufosinate and the third to imidazolinone weed-killers.

Subsequent  tests  revealed  the alarming fact that these had "crossed", and some of the resulting plants had become resistant to all three herbicides. How could those potentially threatening
volunteers be eradicated? Only by resorting to older and more dangerous weed-killers.

I have no crystal ball and I don't know many of the answers. The trouble is that at this time neither does anyone else. I hope I am wrong, but I believe there will be no lasting advantage to the
planet from GM crops,  and that mankind has shortly to learn some very tough lessons. I feel that politics and big business should be removed from the scene, while many years of controlled
experiments on every aspect of genetic modification should take place before this Pandora's box is opened by even the tiniest fraction.
*  *  *
2.    Notes from Caroline Clarke:

South Norfolk District Council arranged a public meeting at Easton College on Wednesday 7 March 2001. Its purpose was to further the GM debate, with a view to a better understanding of the role of GM crops in the Farmscale Trials.

The following are the notes made at the time on the contribution, if that is the right description, made by the first of the four platform speakers.

This was to have been Professor David Baulcombe, also of the Sainsbury Laboratory, whose familiarity with the subject, as with that of the Monarch Butterfly, had not been apparent at the Lyng Village meeting in July 1999. His address then, if equally irrelevant, had at least been
presented without the isufferable arrogance we experienced on what turned into a tragic occasion.

The opening speaker was Professor Jonathan Jones of the John Innes Centre, or more precisely the Sainsbury Laboratory, an institution which has benefited by some £25 Sainsbury millions over the last twenty (?) years. His earlier experience had included Cambridge and Harvard.

He began by saying that the opponents to GM were leading eveybody up the garden path, that antibiotic markers were in the past as other markers are now available. [Unaccountably, therefore, you would think, that it is in the GM Trial maize, the maize still being used as food for us and as animal feed, the same maize the Government would have included last year as the first GM seed on the UK National List]..

With traits now easier to move, food is cheaper to produce; with crop dusters out of business [never noticeable here, even in barley baron country], GM is of benefit to wildlfe. It is unnatural to grow maize, tomatoes, peppers, here in Europe.

The Farmscale Trials will provide intelligent data, and there are no legal reasons to prevent commercialisation. (From this would follow the benefits found) in the US (where) herbicide tolerant crops have reduced the use of herbicides [not according to recent data], and have meant
the need for less tillage.

He then launched into a tirade against Greenpeace. Nobody had died from eating GM foods. Greenpeace had got this issue so wrong - (their purpose) was to raise money, while organic farmers (were against GM because) they want to sell their stuff. We need cheap food, but with Foot and Mouth, there is guilt by association for GM. Greenpeace were not acting in consumers' interests. There is no plausible data, no mechamisms [?].

Market forces will take care of this. Glyphosate is a wonderful chemical - there is no mammalian toxicity [so how is it that 3 out of 4 cases of non-Hodgkin1s Lymphoma were attributed to it by a Swedish glyphosate expert].

Are we being smart, he asks us. GM technology is smart ! [Like Smart Bombs ?]. Agriculture is unnatural, weeding is unnatural. Organic farming has fallen prey to fundamentalism - the Soil Association resorted to bullyboy tactics in Wiltshire over the (GM) oilseed rape Trial. All food in the US is GM - (those against it) are today's eco-missionaries.

The contrast with Sue Mayer's thoughtful presentation which followed could not have been more marked.


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