GM lobby just as militant as opposition

A study on a variety of GM maize found it may have negative effects on stream life
A study on a variety of GM maize found it may have negative effects on stream life
Attacks from scientists may be putting off further research into GM crops

GM technology proponents are just as militant as its opponents, suggests an article published in Nature this week.

Fellow scientists criticised the ‘knee-jerk, partisan and emotional’ tactics of a large block of scientists who denigrate any anti-GM research.

The attacks, said one scientist in GM crops: Battlefield, could be deterring other scientists from conducting further biotech crop research.

The article cites the response to a study by two ecologists on the effects of a particular strain of GM maize on stream life in Northern Indiana.

They found that the maize, ‘may have negative effects on the biota of streams in agricultural areas’.

After its publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the two ecologists received a ‘vehement’ backlash which, according to one of the authors, Emma Rosi-Marshall, ‘went through your jugular’.

This was despite other scientists saying that while the results were only preliminary they were 'valuable’ for future research in the area.

According to other researchers working in the field, the rubbishing tactics may now be trampling important research questions and debate.

At its worst, the behaviour could make for a downward spiral of GM research as a whole, said Don Huber, an emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

‘When scientists become afraid to even ask the questions … that's a serious impediment to our progress,’ he said.

Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, told Nature that the attacks may be deterring young scientists from pursuing careers in biotech crop research.

‘I have a very long experience now with young people coming to me to say that they are not going into this field precisely because they are discouraged by what they see,’ he said.

Useful links

GM crops: Battlefield
GM study: Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems

See also
New SDC chief leaves door open on GM

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