Bound to fail: The flawed scientific foundations of agricultural genetic engineering (part 1)
Published: December 6, 2018
Category: GMO News, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
Half a century on from the first promises of wondercrops, GM has delivered little of value—and the same will be true of the new gene-edited GMOs, says researcher Dr. Angelika Hilbeck
The GMO food venture is bound to fail because it is based on flawed scientific foundations. This was the message of a public talk given by Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, researcher at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and a board member and co-founder of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), on the evening before the 9th GMO Free Europe conference in Berlin this September.
Dr. Hilbeck’s talk introduced a panel discussion with four other scientists: Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of Econexus; Dr. Sarah Agapito-Tenfen of Genøk Centre for Biosafety, Norway; and Professor Ignacio Chapela of the University of California Berkeley.
Below is a summary of Dr. Hilbeck’s talk, given from her perspective as an ecologist:
Agricultural genetic engineering is a promissory science that set itself up to fail from the get-go. In this talk I’m going to put forward the possible reasons for this. In doing so, I shall examine the scientific foundations of genetic engineering—something that scientists should have done when they started on the GMO venture 30-40 years ago when the tools were invented and we started engineering organisms—and put them forward for debate by known experts in this field.
The sky was supposedly the limit when it came to what you could do with these tools. But now, 20 years after the first commercial GMOs were introduced into the agricultural and food system, GM has not delivered on its promises.
Now there is a new round of the same promises, this time based on the new “genome editing” scissors available. Will the new GM technology ever deliver on its promises?
Now we are in 2018, way down the road from these promises. And the reality is that 99 percent of all GM crops grown in the field have only two traits: herbicide resistance (the majority to glyphosate-based herbicides) and insect resistance, with all of the latter based on traits taken from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). What we see in terms of further innovation is that these two traits are simply being combined with one another, notably through conventional breeding, and less so through molecular stacking.
Golden rice still doesn’t exist to this day, because that small step that was envisioned to introduce the “golden” trait into a variety popular with farmers has not worked. All attempts to put that golden trait into a rice variety that would be grown by farmers have so far failed.
Source: GM Watch
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