Scientists in plea to GM protesters
Scientists at a leading agricultural research institute have sent an open letter to anti-GM protesters pleading with them not to destroy "years of work".
The activist group, Take The Flour Back, is planning a "mass action against genetically modified wheat" at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, on May 27.
Supporters have been urged to congregate in Rothamsted Park, next to the institute, at noon. The plan is to proceed along footpaths to a site where scientists are growing a new strain of experimental wheat. Take The Flour Back hopes hundreds of activists will answer the rallying call.
The research aims to see whether wheat engineered to deter aphids can reduce the need for pesticides, but the protesters say the experiment poses a threat to the environment and want to see it stopped.
Take The Flour Back's website bills the demonstration as a "nice day out in the country" to "share picnics, fun, and flour frolics". However, scientists fear an attempt will be made to wreck the experiment.
In their letter, the seven scientists, including the trial leader Professor John Pickett, argue the moral case for their research, stressing that they agree agriculture should seek to work "with nature rather than against it".
In a plea for common sense, they say: "What you are planning to do is reminiscent of clearing books from a library because you wish to stop other people finding out what they contain."
A spokeswoman for Take The Flour Back, who called herself Helen, said members may take action to remove the crop if the experiment is not halted.
"We're asking the scientists to do the responsible thing and stop this trial," she said. "If they don't, we're going to have to do the responsible thing ourselves. We really don't want to be pushed into this action. We're not anti-science. It's just about doing things responsibly."
Asked if the group would call off the protest in response to the scientists' plea, she said: "No, we will not."