Reader's Blog: Promoting the facts about good uses of GMOs

The ruling on July 26 by the Court of Justice of the European Union is frankly absurd. The case was brought by the Confederation paysanne (a French agricultural union which

Reader's Blog: Promoting the facts about good uses of GMOs

The ruling on July 26 by the Court of Justice of the European Union is frankly absurd. The case was brought by the Confederation paysanne (a French agricultural union which defends the interests of small scale farming). The court ruled that ‘organisms obtained by mutagenesis are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO directive’.

However, the court also ruled that only ‘certain mutagenesis techniques’ will fall into this category. What kind of anti-science nonsense is this?

There are more than 3,000 records on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s database of plant varieties that have been produced by mutagenesis — one listing a wheat variety that was officially approved in 1966 and was developed by irradiation with gamma rays. The resultant variety had stripe and stem rust resistance, was resistant to lodging, and had higher yields.

We have been consuming many crops that have been produced in this way for decades with no adverse consequences. We have a new technique available to us that gives more precise outcomes than blasting genomes with gamma rays ie, CRISPR Cas. In a letter ‘GMO stance is grossly misleading’ (Irish Examiner, July 12), I noted how Minister Naughten’s proposal to Cabinet to ‘enable Ireland to prohibit or restrict the cultivation of GMOs in Ireland’ is completely at odds with Ireland’s ambitions for climate action;(a report in the Irish Times on June 18th noted how ‘Ireland was second worst in EU on climate action’) incidentally Irish agriculture could not survive without the importation of genetically modified feed from abroad. Newer plant breeding techniques such as CRISPR cas can provide solutions that will help Irish farmers combat the effects of climate change (including fighting novel and more virulent pathogens).

In less than three weeks, we are hosting a major international conference on these issues. I extend an open invitation to all of your readers to join us in the Convention Centre on Spencer Dock in Dublin (August 19-24) and join in the discussion and have your voice heard (iapb2018.com).

Let’s promote facts, not fear.

Dr Barbara Doyle Prestwich Lecturer in Plant Biotechnology and President of the International Association for Plant Biotechnology

University College Cork

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