Shropshire based Farming Online reports that Rothamsted researchers’ video address to protesters, released in advance of Sunday’s gathering, wherein scientists asked the protesters to leave their trial unmolested, has been traced to a PR-guru working with a lobbying organisation.
Alex Deane, head of public affairs at Weber Shandwick, said: ‘It’s great to see a research institution handle comms so well . . .”
Nick Laitner, director of public affairs at MHP, applauded Rothamsted’s comms handling but also expressed concern: ‘The scientific community and authorities have done well to portray the protesters as extremist zealots. This approach could serve to further polarise and politicise the debate so it becomes a matter of right vs left, rather than the science vs superstition debate the authorities would prefer.’
The ‘aggressive’ protesters gathered in a nearby park and listened to Lawrence Woodward, former director of Elm Farm Organic Research Centre and Gathuru Mburu, co-ordinator of the African Biodiversity Network, who said:
“Experimenting with staple crops is a serious threat to food security. Our resilience comes from diversity, not the monocultures of GM. Beneath the rhetoric that GM is the key to feeding a hungry world, there is a very different story – a story of control and profit. The fact is that we need a diversity of genetic traits in food crops in order to survive worsening climates. Above all, people need to have control over their seeds.”
Protestors believe that the research is driving agriculture in the wrong direction and suggested funding should be put into low-input methods which can maintain ecosystem health and resist the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change.
Writing in the Independent last week, author Joanna Blythman commented on the furore around the Rothamsted trial, which risks overshadowing the greater debate about food security:
“GM increasingly looks like an inherently risky old-hat technology left behind by more advanced approaches that can boost yields more effectively and without the associated risks…For all its swaggering claims to feed the world, the reality is that GM hasn’t delivered on its promise of higher yields and less pesticide.”