A message of thanks from Rothamstead Research

Dear Friends and Colleagues

The scientists at Rothamsted Research want to record their sincere thanks for the amazing, spontaneous outpouring of support for safeguarding their research on aphid repellent wheat. As you all know, this project represented years of painstaking discovery research and the careers of a number of dedicated scientists. The idea that a self-appointed group would decide to destroy this was unconscionable and the researchers felt that they had to reach out to reasonable people for support. No-one expected such enthusiastic and heartfelt support, but it had a number of very positive effects.

You brought the discussion about the research into the realms of sensible debate. Your support really affected the attitude of commentators, who realised what strong support there is for public sector research even when it involves transgenic plants. It also had an effect on those threatening the work and certainly helped to reduce the size of the demonstration that was intent on destroying the experiment. Finally, it was a great source of encouragement to our scientists, even in the depressing period leading up to the direct action, when everyone was feeling under siege. They would read some of the comments and were re-energised to go ahead and struggle for the right to do good science despite the threats.

As you now know, the day of the action went by peacefully and the demonstrators were well behaved. We still live under the threat of another night-time raid, but we are doing our best to safeguard the experiment. Our ecologists and field entomologists are in the field (in the pouring rain!) most days counting aphids, ladybirds and parasitic wasps that live off the aphids. But they are even more enthused to perform this work because of your support. They feel like they are members of a much larger team. This is a reminder of why we do science. It isn’t to produce scientific papers (although we must…), but it is to improve agriculture and all that depends on it.

So thank you, each individually, for your support, your comments and your suggestions. We have learned a great deal though this process, much of it due to you and your help.

The researchers will keep this list apprised of the progress of our work and invite any and all to contact us directly at Rothamsted.

With best wishes to all,

Maurice Moloney

Director and Chief Executive



  1. says

    I’m usually a lurker here, but this story has been really interesting to me, so I want to thank you for talking about this, Ophelia. I’m a scientist myself, and the idea of somebody deliberately going out of their way to destroy other researchers’ work, particularly such potentially beneficial work as this, makes my blood run cold.

    I’m very glad to hear that the crop has been kept safe so far. I sent a polite email to the Take the Flour Back folks shortly before the threatened “direct action”, begging them to reconsider, but who the hell knows if they even bothered to read anything that had a “please don’t do it!” type subject line. Have you heard anything about whether their position on the matter was actually influenced by the responses to their demonstration, or do you think they’re just reconsidering their strategy?

  2. says

    Thanks, Anne, and ditto – except that it made my blood hotter rather than colder! :- )

    I don’t know directly, but the message makes it sound as if at least some of them may have thought a bit harder as a result of the responses. I’ll see if I can find out more.

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