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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Sweet Potato’s 8,000 years of natural selection

Comment (23 Oct 2015)

On 23 October the Guardian published a letter from Professor Anthony Trewavas of Scientific Alliance Scotland promoting the idea that sweet potato’s inclusion of genes naturally inserted by agrobacterium is equivalent to the creation of GM crops. We responded, as follows.

Professor Trewavas raises an interesting comparison between the naturally modified sweet potato and crops that are genetically modified in the lab (Eaten sweet potato? Then you’ve had a GM meal; 23 October 2015). However, if it has taken 8,000 years of natural selection to produce a safe foodstuff following the insertion of two genes from a single bacterium, simple arithmetic suggests a testing period of some 184,000 years to ensure no unintended consequences will transpire from the insertion of 23 different genes from 6 different organisms and 10 synthetic sources, into the experimental GM Camelina crop currently growing at Rothamsted Research.

Liz O’Neill, Director of GM Freeze