Interesting response from Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth. The Emily referred to is Emily Diamond, a researcher with FoE.
We were asked for a comment on this research - which Emily has had a look at. Some points on it are:
Whilst it is an interesting lab experiment, it is far too early to tell whether it will have any benefit in the real world. One of the major issues is that many GM products, either already on the market or in the pipeline, currently use bacterial antibiotic resistant marker genes, so the research is too late for these products and their potential impacts.
Another major issue is that it is not clear what the actual function of those genes is and what impact inserting them could have on the plant.
The researchers admit that "their functions remain largely unknown".
This raises a number of questions; what are the consequences for food safety? Will there be any adverse effects during cultivation? It doesn't look like there were any attempts to address these issues, for example, only things like plant height and number of leaves were assessed when comparing the GM to the non-GM plant.
The research was carried out on tobacco, not food plants. In tobacco, only the leaf is used whereas in food crops other parts of the plant are used, such as storage organs. It is not clear whether this technique would even work in food plants and if it did, again, what the impact would be.
Whilst this may solve one problem associated with genetic modification, it could well create new ones.
It's also been covered on bbc online by Richard Black...
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