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GM sprouts, flatulence, and hot air

1. GM sprouts "could blow away flatulence"
2. Letter from Dr Brian John, GM Free Cymru to Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society

NOTE: In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Prof John Pickett, who's in charge of the GM wheat trial at Rothamsted, claimed that genetic engineering can produce flatulence-free sprouts (item 1). He stated that some of the flavour of the sprouts would be lost, but the sprouts would be smell-free.
 http://www.dbtechno.com/curiosity/2012/12/21/brussel-sprouts-flatulence-free-finally/

Pickett was talking about reducing the sulphur-containing compounds in Brussels sprouts.
 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9760180/Could-Brussels-sprouts-become-flatulence-free-vegetable.html

However, the sulphur compounds in cruciferous veg like sprouts have anti-cancer properties.
 http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=45

Did Pickett stop to think that tinkering with the levels of sulphur compounds in sprouts might change their anti-cancer properties? Apparently not.

Everyone who owns a television in the UK has to pay a yearly licence fee to the BBC for the privilege of inhaling this pro-GMO hot air. 

We weren't the only ones to feel shocked at what the BBC considers "science". Dr Brian John was prompted to write to Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, who will likely be pumping out more foul-smelling GMO propaganda in his role as guest editor of the Today programme just after Christmas (item 2).
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1. GM sprouts "could blow away flatulence"
BBC Radio 4
21 December 2012
Radio broadcast available here:
 http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9780000/9780430.stm

Brussels sprouts are often associated with digestive problems and flatulence.

The Nobel Prize winning biologist and President of the Royal Society Sir Paul Nurse will be guest editing the Today programme on 27 December and is keen to look into how the world is going to have to overcome public hostility to genetically modified (GM) crops if a growing global population is to be fed.

The Today programme's science correspondent Tom Feilden examines whether it could be that by solving the flatulence associated with the sprout - researchers could blow away the clouds of mistrust hovering over other GM food.

"We could have a more, what shall we say, inert Brussels sprout," said Professor John Pickett, the leader of a GM wheat trial at the Rothamsted research institute.
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2. Letter from Dr Brian John, GM Free Cymru
to Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society
21 December 2012

Dear Sir Paul

I have just heard the piece from the Today programme in which John Pickett waxes lyrical about GM brussels sprouts without the side effects. I thought for a moment that it was April 1st… but then I thought that if this is the sort of thing that GM scientists are thinking about, God help us all.

I understand that you will be "promoting the science agenda" as guest editor of the Today programme on 27th December.  Well, I wish you luck in that, since the public needs to be assured that scientists are both competent and honest.

However, it appears that one of your objectives is to examine how public hostility towards GMOs might be overcome, so that GM scientists can help in the noble task of feeding the world.

Why do you see it as part of your job to promote the interests of the GM industry? That industry, whose sole interest in feeding the world is linked to its own desire for total control of both the seed supply and the agrichemical supply, needs no help from anybody - and anybody who has eyes to see must realise that corporations like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta fully deserve their black reputations. Do you really think that these corporations are good at science? They are indubitably good at technology, but they have absolutely no understanding of scientific ethics and they have long histories of involvement in scientific fraud, bribery, the vilification of independent scientists, and other deeply unpleasant activities. They have not the slightest idea what the Precautionary Principle is, and they are actively seeking to dismantle the regulatory system that (whatever its shortcomings may be) does try to protect public safety. You may not count these corporations among your friends, but if you are promoting GMOs you are also promoting their interests - and it would be disingenuous of you to pretend otherwise.

And why should you consider it as part of your brief as President of the Royal Society to seek to overcome public hostility to GMOs? Is it because you think that such hostility arises from scientific ignorance and from a resistance to change?  Please think again. Public resistance to GMOs is a great deal more sophisticated than you pretend. People are not stupid. They actually do remember that the Government's own farm-scale trials showed that GM crops are bad for the environment.  They know that GM foods bring NO consumer advantages in terms of product taste, nutritional value, shelf life, cost or anything else. 

They know about super-weeds and super-bugs, and they are aware that GM monocultures are associated with massive socio-economic disruption. They know that there is accumulating evidence of harm to mammals which have consumed GMOs and residues of herbicides - and they are more than a little upset when the independent scientists who seek to draw this research to the attention of the public and the media are systematically vilified by the very scientific establishment which you are a part of. Nor do they forget the despicable role played by the Royal Society in the vilification and dismissal of Arpad Pusztai back in 1999.

Please get real here. The public is deeply suspicious about GMOs, with good reason. The only way in which that suspicion can be overcome by the science community is for that community to become more competent, to be less susceptible to vested interests, to show greater respect to scientists who discover "uncomfortable" things about GMOs, and to accept that matters like global food security, food sovereignty and long-term sustainability require social and political solutions, and not techno-fixes.

I will appreciate the courtesy of a reply.

With best wishes for a very happy Christmas.

Sincerely,
Dr Brian John