The Royal Society, which includes many of the world’s most eminent scientists, has launched a “fact-based” Q&A-style guide that is intended to answer the questions that the UK public have about genetically modified (GM) crops.
The online booklet, which is accompanied by an animation explaining the basic science of GM, compared to conventional plant breeding, has been created in response to survey evidence that half of the UK population do not feel well informed about GM crops and a further 6% have never heard of them.
“GM is a contentious subject and not all public discussion has been informed by independent scientific evidence,” said the president of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan. “At the same time, there is a debate about how to ensure that we have sufficient food, grown in as sustainable a way as possible, to feed the world’s growing population.
“We recognise that our answers will not end the controversy, but we hope that they will inform people about the science and allow those who might previously have felt excluded from the discussion to form a view.”
The Royal Society will also hold a series of public panel discussion events called Growing tomorrow’s dinner – should GM be on the table? These will be held across the UK over the summer and autumn with the first two events taking place at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on June 6 and at Belfast’s The Black Box arts venue on June 29.
“The Royal Society’s project is simply a welcome reminder of the overwhelming scientific evidence that GM is a safe technology, and that it offers significant benefits to British farmers,” said NFU chief science adviser, Helen Ferrier. “To explain the science to the general public is an important part of the jigsaw.
“But there are still missing pieces. The regulatory process is seriously broken, and the legacy of relentless anti-GM campaigns is still with us. This discourages investment in solutions to major challenges in food production, environmental protection and nutrition, and this is a crying shame.”