A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, November 14, 2003

At last! Sound sense on those Farm-Scale Evaluations (FSEs)..... but chips are off!

How refreshing to have an independent, hardworking scientist writing on those much-abused Farm-Scale Evaluations (FSEs) of spring-sown GM crops in the UK: 'Evaluating the farm-scale trials' (Sp!ked, November 13). Conrad Lichtenstein is Professor of Molecular Biology at Queen Mary College, University of London. He is committed to the public understanding of science within the GM debate (would that others were!), and he is a long-term specialist on the subject who was doing research in the field when GM automatically meant General Motors.

Here are two telling quotations from his article raising points all too easily hidden under the compost heap:

(a) "That the evaluation involved GM crops is not relevant: herbicide-tolerant crops can also be, and indeed have been, developed by conventional methods. GM is a process not a product - and, as demonstrated by this study, each new product (whether it is GM, conventional or organic) needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis using rational evidence-based science."

(b) "Meanwhile, back on the organic farm, the 'organic horse' bolted long before 'stable doors' had been invented: organic farmers use old-fashioned herbicides that, because they are less specific in their toxicity, are rather poisonous beyond their intended victims, the weeds. Yet they are in use, because their adoption preceded the regulations now required for approval of modern herbicides. As we know, organic farmers and consumers are concerned for the environment - surely they should therefore also be willing to submit their herbicides to the same farm-scale evaluations?"

Absolutely. An excellent article, well worth the read along with your morning coffee.

And boy! How we need a GM potato against the bacterium, 'ring rot' (Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus). (See today's press, such as:'Potato farmers fear epidemic of new disease', The Guardian, November 4 - and you can give each paper a mark out of 10 according to how correctly they print the little bug's scientific name!). Never mind the cod - there soon won't be any chips! Philip in vinegary mood.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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