Gene editing (GE), as defined by the latest UK legislation, is ‘Frankenstein science’ and should be called out as such, in my opinion.

I sense that quite a number of molecular scientists in the UK are ecstatically happy right now, given the recent decision by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to green light the technology for plant breeding purposes.

I know little or nothing about the techniques involved where GE is concerned. However, Rothamsted Research scientists have previously confirmed that the initial genetic modification of a plant’s DNA is required to make it all happen in the first place.

And that was enough for me to conclude that GE should have no role to play within the field of plant breeding science.

Gene editing as ‘Frankenstein science’

Mary Shelley makes it clear in her book that Baron Frankenstein set out to do good. But he still ended up creating a monster.  

The parallels between that story and what the gene editing fraternity of today are getting up to, seem pretty obvious to me.

Traditional plant breeding techniques have served production agriculture well over many generations. I see no reason why these processes cannot be allowed to continue in ways that complement what nature is all about.

The role of big tech agriculture and its reliance on genetic modification (GM) in places like the United States (U.S) and South America is an abhorrence.

Who knows what madness they have set in train? It may well take us years to find out.

Damage to the environment

But the use of genetic modification to develop crops, which are resistant to a herbicide that causes total devastation to the soils and general environment within which they are grown, does not rank as mankind’s ‘greatest hour’ in my book.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all for progress when it comes to production agriculture being able to produce more food per acre.

But I sense the real challenge here is that of getting farmers to make better use of the conventional science and management systems already available to them.

Take the current fertiliser situation as a case in point. Over the past month or so, I have sat in on countless technical webinars hosted by Teagasc advisors and other pleading with farmers to get back to basics, i.e. soil test and use lime as required to get soil pH values up.

I have to say… all of this science was known about back in my grandfather’s day.

I referenced Teagasc above. Let’s hope that the organisation decides to give gene editing a miss.

Some years ago Teagasc scientists carried out a number of GM potato trials. We don’t need any more ‘Frankenstein science’ on Irish soil, in my opinion.