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Genetically modified crops are the future and must not be blocked, say scientists

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Genetically modified crops are being blocked on political rather than scientific grounds, botanists warn, as they call on Europe to end regulation.
The widespread cultivation of genetically modificd crops is the only way to feed the world and governments must stop blocking trials, a consortium of Europe's most well-renowed
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plant scientists have claimed.
In an open letter to the European Parliame11t ahead of a debate on GM, more than 20 of the most eminent botanists and ecologists in the world warn that it is time to put fears of genetic modification aside and begin widespread field trials. They call for a 'fundamental revision of GM regulation· which, they claim, is currently based not on science, but on
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politics.
Signatory Professor Jonathan Jones of the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich says British scientists are creating world-changing crops, but they are being blocked by Europe. Professor Jones has developed a blight-resistant potato which would avoid the need for farmers to spray crops with fungicides I 5 times a ycar. Blight is the number one threat to
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the six million tonnes of potatoes produced in Britain each year and was responsible for the Irish Famine of the 1840s.
But European approval is needed for commercial cultivation and so far the Council of Ministers has vetoed every application. rofessor Jones says: "lt's incredibly frustrating. It prevents scientists from doing the work in the first place because they know that it won't
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get approved. Even when the science is approved by the European Food Standards Agency, it goes to the Council of Ministers who are inevitably split on political grounds and then it comes to a standstill. Britain is fairly liberal compared with the rest of Europe and will allow initial trials, but Europe cannot seem to get its ducks all in a row so we can move forward."
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GM crops have polarised opinion since they were first produced by American scientists in 1982. […] Most scientists, however, now agree that there is little evidence to suggest that crops are dangerous to humans or the environment. They could even be more beneficial to health and add nutrients to the genetic make-up of plants.
In Britain, just one small field trial is currently taking place. Rothamsted Research in
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Hertfordshire is growing a crop of false flax which has been modified with genes which make Omega-3 so that its seeds will produce an oil rich in fatty acid normally only found in fish.
But the letter warns that "in most European countries permits to perform field ex­periments with transgenic plants are blocked, not on scientific but on political grounds."
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The authors call for Europe to allow individual countries to opt out of growing crops. lt would mean that countries like Britain could begin commercial production while those who oppose the idea, like France, would not be forced to do the same.
"We all depend on plants for providing us with food, building material, textiles, medicine and fuel," the authors of the open letter write. "Among the greatest challenges facing
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is the provision of fuel, feed and, above all. healthy and nutritious food to an increasing population using agricultural and forestry practices that are environmentally and economically sustainable. Plant scientists must be able to perform field experiments. Many of us work with genetically modified plants as research tools, for example to understand how native plants and crops protect themselves against pests and will react
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to climate change. European authorities must ensure that approved and safe field experiments with transgenic plants are made possible."
The signatories, who include world-leading plant scientists from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, also call for more effort into tackling ongoing vandalism by and intimidation from anti-GM activists. They reveal that
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"some of us have even been threatened and had private property vandalized." -'This is a serious threat to science, to publicly funded research, and to European society itself," they add.
Stefan Janson of Umeå university, Sweden, who has coordinated the letter, said: "lt is popular these days for campaigners to start petitions or send joint letters but this is not
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just any list of plant scientists. Politicians that choose to ignore this message cannot in the future say that they take science seriously."


Annotations:
11 ignatory - a person who signs a letter
13 blight - Kartoffelfäule
24 to get one's ducks (all) in a row - to get organized and prepared for the next step


Aus: Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph, 07.11.2016 (abgekürzt)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/agriculture/ geneticmodification/11196045/Genetically-modified-crops-are-the-future-and-must-not-be-blocked-say-scientists.html
#geneticengineering#newspaper
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