News out of the UK reports that ministers have approved the open field trials of a GM ‘super wheat’ in Hertfordshire. The crops will be surrounded by a steel fence to keep out protesters, and the scientists claim the wheat will be able to dramatically increase the yield of grains, but fears about crop contamination persist.
Since many American farmers have decided against planting GM wheat, because shoppers are by and large rejecting it, fears exist that British wheat sales and exports will suffer if crops are contaminated with genes from GM plants.
From the article:
“Two versions of the wheat will be planted, both with extra copies of a gene that makes the enzyme SBPase, which plays an important role in photosynthesis. One will have two extra copies of the gene and the other six.
The genetic tweaking will allow the plants to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon is one of the raw ingredients plants use to make sugar through photosynthesis, a complex chemical process powered by energy from sunlight.
The wheat has been genetically engineered so that, in theory, it can use sunlight more efficiently. Genes from a wild plant called stiff brome have been inserted.
The process also added an antibiotic marker gene and genes giving resistance to some weedkillers.”
If it sounds dangerous and unpredictable to you that would be totally understandable.
While greenhouse research has shows yields up by up to 40 per cent, the field trials will need to be able to replicate those yields. And this won’t be the first GM wheat tested at the site. It took British researchers five years to develop a crop that gave off chemicals that were supposed to stop insects but the process did not work in field trials (more than £3million of public money was spent on the trials).
Even though GM Freeze, a non-profit looking for responsible and clean growing conditions, has raised concerns about the real possibility of GM wheat escaping (like it has in the US), the Government has made clear that they wish to pursue GM farming.