“Take the Flour Back” has started the vandalism, intends more

I am in receipt of a message from the researchers at Rothamstead via Sile Lane (Sense About Science). It’s urgent and it matters so I’ll just post the whole thing.

Dear Petition Signatory

A forwarded note from the GM wheat research team at Rothamsted:

Dear Signatory

Thank you very much indeed for all your support on this petition and kind emails since our appeal.

We have the bad news that yesterday an individual broke into the experimental site and caused substantial damage. However, the overall integrity of the experiment has not yet been compromised. This is even more reason why we are extremely worried that the Take the Flour Back group is continuing with plans for direct action to destroy our GM wheat experiment entirely next Sunday. It has now issued logistical instructions for doing this and a ‘legal briefing’ for activists.

The group says it wants to destroy the crop because of a ‘contamination’ risk through cross-pollination with other wheat in fields a long way away. Their reason for pulling it up on 27 May was that “wheat is wind-pollinated” and that this was the last weekend before pollination is likely to occur. They did not seem to realise when they booked this date that wheat is in fact self-pollinating, and that therefore almost no pollen leaves the plant, let alone the field. We have informed them of this misunderstanding, but to no avail. They have also refused our offer to debate the issues in public in front of an audience, saying they do not have the “capacity” to field a speaker.

In the thousands of signatories on the petition against destroying our research, there are many diverse voices, including farmers, environmentalists, people local to Rothamsted, researchers in other fields, writers, musicians and all walks of life. We know many of you want to do something to help, and may feel angry and powerless about this latest vandalism. However, in discussions with the authorities, we cannot have our supporters counter-protesting on the day as it would provoke the kind of conflict that we have been trying to avoid. The only way forward is through communication and verbal engagement.

Take the Flour Back don’t need to hear angry invective, but as a last ditch attempt at getting them to call off their action, we think they should understand why so many people oppose destroying the research. The only way we know of reaching them is at [email protected]. Although they may not reply, they will be taking note of the strong support that we have received.

Best regards

Toby Bruce (Scientist specialising in plant-insect interactions, Team Leader)

Gia Aradottir (Insect Biology, Postdoc )

Huw Jones (Wheat Transformation, Coinvestigator)

Lesley Smart (Field Entomology)

Janet Martin (Field Entomology)

Johnathan Napier (Plant Science, Coinvestigator)

John Pickett (Chemical Ecology, Principal Investigator)