13 July 1998
New technique combats vision of a GM future

SCIENTISTS at the University of Auburn, in America, are looking at ways to reduce the impact of genetically-modified crops on the environment. Instead of inserting the foreign genes into the cell nucleus, the new method puts them into the cell chloroplasts.

This means that although the plants still produce the desired chemicals, the trait is not carried in the pollen. This is supposed to eradicate the risk of gene-modified pollen spreading into the wider environment.

The Times takes a leap 22 years into the future and finds a world where genetically-modified (GM) crops have wreaked environmental havoc.

It finds a world where songbirds have finally fled the countryside because the seed-producing weeds on which they depend have been eradicated. The hum of bees and other insects will also be silenced because GM crops produce insect-resistant toxins, and superweeds resistant to chemical treatment have emerged to make up the nightmare scenario, it says.

The article reports that such alarming visions are no longer confined to the green lobby. It says Professor John Beringer, chairman of the government committee that advises on GM organisms, is also voicing similar concerns.

And English Nature, the Governments wildlife adviser, wants a temporary ban on the commercial planting of GM crops until more research is available.

The first GM crops are expected to be given the go-ahead towards the end of the year despite some experts claims that they are still too crude.

  • The Times 13/07/98 page 15