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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

King Exaggerates GM Progress

Immediate release (27 Nov 2007)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065 or Eve Mitchell 0207 837 0642 / 07962 437 128

GM Freeze have accused Chief Scientist Professor David King of greatly exaggerating the progress made in developing new GM crops around the world and of ignoring the other ways to tackle global climate and poverty challenges.

Professor King, interviewed on the BBC’s Today programme this morning (27 November), said that GM crops were needed to cope with a growing population and climate change. At the same time Professor King defended Europe’s rigorous safety assessment for GM crops and foods.

King’s views contrast markedly with those of Ossama El-Tayeb, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Industrial Biotechnology at Cairo University [1]:

I wish to add that transgenicity for drought tolerance and other environmental stresses (or, for that matter, biological nitrogen fixation) are too complex to be attainable in the foreseeable future, taking into consideration our extremely limited knowledge of biological systems and how genetic/metabolic functions operate.

Those who propagate the ideas that any biological function could be genetically manipulated are optimists who are probably victims of a consortium of ‘arrogant’ scientists and greedy business who have strong control on policy making and the media. Having said that, I feel we should not lose hope of reaching such noble goals and should continue to fund such research whose fruits may be reaped by a future generation. These goals have been used by the proponents of currently available genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the control of big business, who propose that GM crops will alleviate poverty soon while in fact currently available ones mostly contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security and positively to the stock market.

The holders of intellectual property rights for present day GM crops keep teasing us about the potential of GMOs resistant to abiotic stresses and the like while doing nothing about developing such crops for this generation. These are simply not easily exploitable in a business market and are accordingly not on their agenda. Basic research in this area is being funded almost exclusively by public funds.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

Listening to David King you would think that there is a GM magic wand that will enable farmers to overcome all challenges facing them – drought, pests, poor soil. He is guilty of exaggerating the progress that has been made in developing GM crops for extreme conditions. GM drought resistant crops have been talked about for well over a decade and are still not close to being available to poor farmers, who rarely get asked what they think or want from plant breeding or agricultural development. Professor King studiously avoided the socio-economic and political blockages to progress. We wish Professor King well in his retirement. We hope his successor will take exaggerated claims about GM crops with a large pinch of salt and that the UK research is directed to the right solutions that the people in the Global South actually want.


Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065 or Eve Mitchell 0207 837 0642 / 07962 437 128.

[1] See