Scientists consider new GM wheat trial

THE INTEREST around genetically modified (GM) crops is continuing to rise with reports that scientists at Rothamsted are mulling over a proposal to apply for permission to replicate its GM trial of wheat plants engineered to repel aphids.


Farmers Weekly has revealed that discussions about the trial are ongoing.


The first trials of the wheat last spring created a media frenzy as anti-GM campaigners tried to destroy the crop and set up protests. Their threats provoked researchers involved in the trial to launch an emotional online appeal to stop any protests. In a short video they tried to allay fears of cross-contamination and explain how important such trails are in terms of food security.


The scientists are looking to sow an autumn crop given that most of the UK’s wheat is sown at that time of year rather than in the spring.


The potential impacts of GM cereals and oilseeds on UK agriculture is also set to be part of a desk-based study by the HGCA. The project will model a number of scenarios looking at the economic implications of either adopting or not adopting the controversial technology right through the supply chain. The impact on the environment will also be considered.


Dr Vicky Foster, senior HGCA research and knowledge transfer manager, said: “With limited approval of this technology in Europe there is little evidence available on what impact it could have for UK agriculture and nothing specifically for cereals and oilseeds. The topic of genetically modified food and feed continues to generate a high level of interest and debate.”


While interest in GM appears to be growing in the UK, over in the US it’s another matter. Some farmers are considering moving back to conventional crops after yields started falling in GM crops.


This week’s Footprint Forum, on Thursday February 28th, will focus on GM. More details are available here.