A new Swiss government-protected GM crop site will act as an example to other European nations hoping to develop biotechnology solutions without the threat of vandalism from anti-GM campaigners, suggest researchers.
Writing in in Trends in Biotechnology, the research team suggests that the government protected field site, which will be dedicated for use in studies of genetically modified (GM) crops, could act as an example to other European countries interested in pursuing crop biotechnology.
"This could be a model for other European countries that wish to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of GM crops in an objective and scientific manner with less risk of vandalism," said Jörg Romeis of Zurich's Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station.
The development and use of genetically modified crops has been a source of great controversy in Europe; while the researchers note that acts of vandalism by activists and the associated security costs in preventing damage to experiments by protestors has made producing reliable scientific evidence on the health and ecological impacts of GM crops ‘hard to come by.’
But now, the new protected field site will enable research groups to conduct experiments without having to install and pay for security measures.
Romeis and his colleagues suggest that vandalism and its associated costs appear to be a major factor in the steady decline of European GM research – a situation that they call unacceptable.
He suggested that the establishment of such protected sites could eventually reverse such a decline in GM field trials and so strengthen plant biotechnology research in Europe.
The new research station is expected to operate with an annual budget of €600,000.