Activists from the group Take the Flour Back are planning to destroy a trial plot of genetically engineered wheat at the Rothamsted research center in the UK. Apparently there is nothing anyone can do to stop this- short of a counter-demonstration of Science Defenders, or Defenders of the Enlightenment perhaps, going there to confront the activists (which at least one Tweeter has suggested)- so the scientists have put out an appeal to the protesters which can be viewed here.
The wheat has been developed to mimic natural plant defenses by producing high levels of an aphid repelling odour, which could help promote sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture by reducing the need for pesticides.
The activists are concerned that there could be contamination of other crops from the wheat, which is wind-pollinated; the scientists say they have taken extraordinary precautions to avoid this. However, although caution is a good idea for any new variety, the concern seems misplaced: essentially GE crops are no different from other varieties bred using traditional methods. Like the GE potato trials proposed for Ireland, these are trials– if scientists are prevented from doing their research, how can we know what risks, if any, there may be? But as also with the potato trials, the main objection seems to be protectionism: there is no more reason for “contamination” from GE crops, should it happen, to be more of a problem than conventionally bred crops- unless you have an arbitrary system called “organics” which has decided to ban that particular method of plant breeding.
“There is no market for GM wheat anywhere in the world” they claim- a meaningless statement. GE wheat is at the end of the day, just wheat- and there is surely a market for that. Most of the world is pressing ahead a-pace with GE technology as a useful tool for producing safe food with less environmental impacts, while Europe takes a more isolationist approach which will likely cost it dearly in the long run.
The world desperately needs biotech to help produce crops with less environmental impact. Unless you want to see policy decided by anti-democratic actions as planned for May 27th, and see farmers progressively lose the battle against pests and disease, please sign the petition here and add your name to the 2000+ who are showing their support for science and research.