Farming News - GM campaigners protest controversial wheat trial at Defra HQ

GM campaigners protest controversial wheat trial at Defra HQ

11 Apr 2012

Campaigners from the protest group ‘Take the Flour Back’ have today demonstrated outside the Defra offices against a trial of controversial genetically modified wheat being grown in Hertfordshire.


In protest against the wheat, which detractors claim is posing a risk to the environment and diverting money from research for genuinely sustainable methods and varieties, the group delivered a giant pasty to Defra’s head office in London, where a carpet of toast was laid, covering the steps into the building and carrying the message “GM wheat? Pull it out or we will”.  


‘Take the Flour Back’ is planning a mass action in protest against the trial, including a picnic at Rothamsted Research Institute, where the wheat is being grown, later in the year. Demonstrators today said that if Defra officials do not call an end to the trial, they will “be forced to publicly remove the plot.”


Speaking about the controversial Rothamsted Trial, Jo Walker from the Community Food Growers Network said, “There is no market for GM wheat anywhere in the world, so any accidental escapes from this trial will have devastating consequences. We know from experiences in North America that experiments can and do leak into the food chain, and cost farmers millions in lost exports. This GM wheat contains parts of a virus, traits for antibiotic-resistance, and man-made genes ‘most similar to that of a cow’, it’s hardly surprising no one would want to eat it.”


Officials from Rothamsted have said they will be on hand during the protest at the institute in May to discuss the trial with protesters. The wheat in question has been engineered to repel aphids by emitting a ‘panic hormone’ which deters the pests and attracts wasps, their natural predators.


However, according to the protestors, research by US and German scientists in 2010 found that aphids adapt to ignore this chemical after 2 years of exposure. Wheat is Britain’s main domestic staple and one of the country’s largest agricultural exports, worth over £1.5 Billion last year. Scotland had the world’s highest wheat yields in 2011.