GM Foods Debate (London)

  • Guest (Gerhart Ryffel)

    We should not only deplore the widespread deadlock in GM crop, but rather search for a way to overcome the problems. This needs not only a balanced view of the pros and contras that is quite well presented in this interview, but also the willingness to compromise. Realizing the general fear and uncertainties of the public we, the scientist, should advocate for solutions that take care of the concerns as much as possible. Thus, we should explore and advertise the best scientific answers we might think of to minimize any potential risk. Therefore, I have recently proposed to develop orgenic plants that are gene-manipulated plants with properties compatible with organic farming (Ryffel, 2012: Orgenic plants: Gene-manipulated plants compatible with organic farming. Biotechnol. J 7, 1328-1331.). From my point of view there are two main issues we should respect, if we want to use GM crops in a sustainable way. First we should not develop plants that require herbicides, even if its use would be lower compared to conventional agriculture, as the environmental and health impacts cannot be neglected. Second, we should take measures to exclude outcrossing of transgenes. Therefore, we should concentrate our efforts to cisgenic GM plants that contain genes already present in the natural gene pool. In cases where the introduction of a foreign gene, i.e. a transgene, is required we should use plants that are unable to transfer the transgene to other plants. In the case of vegetatively propagated plants, such as potato or cassava, we should use varieties that do not produce viable pollen. If the actual seeds of a GM plant are harvested, e.g. cereals, we should engineer plants that produce their seeds clonally. Since this apomictic trait is found in many plants, but not in the crop grown as human food, a major research effort is needed to solve this problem. I am convinced that orgenic plants are an attractive approach to solve the 21st century problem using the 21th century technology.

  • First time I've understood what GM is. Thank you

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