Biotech Updates

Debate on GM Wheat in Great Britain

June 1, 2012

A demonstration against the field trial of GM wheat by the organizers Take the Flour Back was prevented by the Harpenden, Hertfordshire, police last May 27. The GM wheat trial is being conducted by the scientists at Rothamsted Research Institute to determine the transgenes efficacy in controlling aphids.

The large cereal aphid Sitobion avenae has been wreaking havoc in conventionally grown wheat in the UK and can only be treated with broadband insecticides that are expensive, can cause the development of pesticide resistant colonies and affects non-target organisms. The aphids suck the plant juice and can also transmit viruses hence compounding the problem. GM wheat contains the gene for (E)-ß-farnesene which repels the aphids when they come in contact. Its natural enemy the Lady bug is attracted to the substance, thus the aphids become a defenseless prey.

The critics were concerned about allergenicity claims and cross-pollination of the transgenic wheat plants These issues were quickly countered by the pro-scientific lobby group, Sense About Science, to be not possible. No record of allergenicity has been recorded in the literature and wheat is a self-pollinating crop and cross pollination is miniscule.

In another news article, Mark Lynas, a member of the said pro-science group who once protested about GM trials commented that: "I think today is a turning point. Today is the first day that people have turned out to defend the scientific method and defend the age of reason from the ideologically bonkers wing of the environmental movement."

The original news in Dutch can be seen at A related news article can be found at