Could 2011 be a pivotal year for engaging the public in the great GM debate?
The public have always had strong opinions on GM, and until very recently these views have been very negative. GM crops were essentially bad. There were no benefits apart from financial ones and the risks to human health and the environment were too high.
But I wonder if the issue is starting to seen as more complex in the eyes of the public. It certainly seems to be in the eyes of the media.
In Canada, scientists have created the Enviropig.
Enviropigs have been genetically modified to allow them to digest phosphates, present in high levels in important pig foods such as barley, wheat and corn. In normal pigs, these indigestible phosphates pass straight through the pig, out of the back end and into the environment where they can cause significant ecological damage. These pigs are not yet ready for farming, but will people eat GM pork in any case? It remains to be seen, but now people have the environment to consider when they make up their minds.
Link to report on Enviropigs
And in the UK, scientists have developed the world’s first GM chicken, designed so it will not spread the bird flu that everyone has been so worried about recently. It is still in development and the British Poultry Council says that public opinion will be a deciding factor on whether GM poultry is farmed in the UK.
Link to report on First GM chicken
So a debate on GM livestock seems to be starting, and from a position where there are strong environmental and public health issues on both sides. It will be interesting to see how it continues.