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Campaigners to challenge GM researchers in debate

Anti-GM campaigners have organised a rally at the John Innes Centre’s Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich on 23 July, where they will challenge researchers to a debate.

Researchers from the centre—which is conducting a trial of genetically modified potatoes that are resistant to the fungal disease blight—will be up against campaign debaters including Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, and Pete Riley, chairman of the GM Freeze campaign.

The campaigners claim that the centre has spent £1.7 million over the last decade without managing to produce a blight-resistant potato.

“Public rejection of the risks associated with eating genetically modified food means that even if the engineering involved was successful, there would be no market for the crop,” say the campaigners in a statement.

The researchers say they are looking forward to the debate.

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss our work with people who are interested, for whatever reason, in what we are doing,” Jonathan Jones, a research leader at the centre.

“I applaud the efforts of the publicly-funded scientists at The Sainsbury Laboratory to engage directly with anti-GM campaigners,” said Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, in a statement.

“Science can help ensure food security at the same time as reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment. Some technologies have attracted controversy and where concerns remain it is right that scientists are ready to listen,” he added.

The event is being co-ordinated by the campaign group Stop GM and the Genetic Engineering Network. The trial is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.