ChromeAeonium writes: Shortly after the events in Rothamsted Research in the UK, where a publicly funded trial of wheat genetically engineered to repel aphids was threatened by activists with destruction and required police protection, another publicly funded experiment involving genetically engineered crops faces possible destruction (original in Italian). The trial, which is being conducted by researchers at the University of Tuscia in Italy on cherries, olives, and kiwis genetically engineered to have traits such as fungal disease resistance, started three decades ago. When field research of GE plants was banned in Italy in 2002, the trial received an extension to avoid being declared illegal, but was denied another in 2008, and following a complaint from the Genetic Rights Foundation, now faces destruction on June 12th, despite appeals from scientists. The researchers claim that the destruction is scientifically unjustifiable (only the male kiwis produce transgenic pollen and their flowers are removed) and wish to gather more information from the long running experiment.
ChromeAeonium writes: Much like vaccines and evolution, there exists a great disparity between the scientific consensus and the public perceptions of the safety of genetically engineered crops. A previous study from France, which was later dismissed by the EFSA, FSANZ, and the French High Council of Biotechnologies, claiming to have found abnormalities in the organs of animals fed GE diets by analyzing three previous studies was discussed on Slashdot. However, now a new study, also out of France, claims the opposite is true, that GE crops are unlikely to pose health risks (translation). Looking at 24 long term and multi-generational studies on insect resistant and herbicide tolerant plants, the study states, 'The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed.' Although it is impossible to prove a negative, and while every GE crop must be individually evaluated as genetic engineering is a process not a product, perhaps this study will help to ease the fears of genetically engineered food and foster a more scientific discussion on the role of agricultural biotechnology.
ChromeAeonium writes: Greenpeace activists wearing theatrical hazmat suits have destroyed a test field of genetically modified wheat run by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) that represented a year's worth of work and $300,000. The wheat, which was designed to benefit consumers by having a lower glycemic index and higher fiber content, was accused of being unsafe by Greenpeace (although it was noticed they say the same thing about other GM crops), however experts dismissed these claims, saying that the risk was negligible and noting that such tests are how safety is ultimately judged, that Greenpeace breached containment protocol in their attack, and calling Greenpeace anti-science. Greenpeace was also accused of hypocrisy for demanding action based on climate change consensus while denying scientific consensus on genetic engineering. Taking a page out of Jenny McCarthy's book, one of the vandals claims to be have done it for her children, despite the safety record of genetic engineering. This was just one in a series of recent attacks on agricultural science, following an attack on government funded GM potatoes in Germany and before possible eco-terrorism hit papaya farmers in Hawaii, spreading fear throughout the farmers there. Given the attacks against GM potatoes earlier this year, and on GM grapes before that (both government funded), it looks like freedom of inquiry in agricultural research is increasingly limited to whatever won't get destroyed.