A controversial field test of GM wheat has failed to repel the aphids as intended. It was hoped that the modified wheat would repel greenfly and blackfly without pesticides, but failed. The government funded field trial at Rothampstead Research cost nearly £3m of which more than £2 was on security to protect from vandalism by protesters.
Scientists there claimed to be disappointed but denied the study was a failure. “If we knew the answers t every question before we started there would be no need for science and there would be no innovation. .
Helen Wallace of GeneWatch UK said “With Gm crops it’s always jam tomorrow and never jam today. We have had more than 30 years o promises of useful traits but they have not been delivered, despite massive promotion of GM technology by governments and PR agencies. ” The GM wheat was modified with an extra synthetic gene for a substance called beta-faresene which aphids secrete as a pheromone to warn one another of a threat.
Although the gene was correctly inserted into the wheat, and the alarm pheromone was produced effectively, it failed to repel the insects in the field, suggesting hat they may have become used to the presence of the alarm signal and so ignored it, scientists said.
Professor John Picket, of Rothamsted, said the next stage will be to see if it is possible to refine the field experiment to see if the GM wheat can be tweaked in a way that allows it to repel aphids.
Or perhaps they could try to understand that animal behaviour, even in aphids, is far more complex than a single chemical causing flight behaviour.
It all comes down to who is doing this research – big business. Have any poor farmers asked for GM? Not that I know of. Big pharma is not a charity. Yet they keep claiming this expensive and risky tinkering with nature will help feed the world. I think farmers know better and they’re not having it. If GM is so great, why won’t they let it be labelled as such in supermarkets? That’s the ultimate test of its benefits.