Andy Coghlan who wrote this New Scientist piece is famous for his GM promotionals. His most extraordinary piece was the one in which he suggested the Women's Institute had fixed the GM public debate in the UK on the grounds that reports on the debates around the UK identified middle-aged mothers as the most vociferous critics of the technology!!
From Robert Vint of GE Food Alert:
It is unclear why this New Scientist writer has chosen to refer to smallholders who are defending their own livelihoods as vandals...
EXTRACT: "Last August, with two years remaining in the trial, the plants were hacked down by vandals. Smallholders, who make up the majority of coffee-growers, fear that GM strains will enable richer farmers who can afford the technology to put them out of business. Emotions are running high, so the attack on the trial was not altogether surprising."
ActionAid, a major development charity in the UK, ran a major campaign against GM coffee a few years ago. The cover of their leaflet stated "The GM coffee bean - it could potentially push 60 million people further into poverty". No GM crop trial is going to assess the socio-economic impact of such a crop. The only socio-economic impact data we have comes from Argentina, Makhathini Flats in South Africa and Andhra Pradesh in India. In all three cases studies show that the poorest farmers were driven into further poverty and unemployment in large numbers.
The top eight nations will be offering more aid for Africa at the G8 summit - is this the sort of aid we can expect??
Coffee Trial Survives Insects, But Not Vandals
Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, May 28, 2005
Vandals have ruined the world's first and only outdoor trial of genetically engineered coffee. But it emerged last week that enough results were salvaged from the trial in French Guiana to show that an inserted toxin gene protected the GM coffee plants against moth larvae.
In May 2000, researchers based in Montpellier from the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) planted plots of both GM and unmodified coffee plants. The GM plants had been engineered to contain a toxin gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which codes for a protein lethal to insects but harmless to humans. They chose French Guiana for the trial because no coffee grows there, avoiding any possibility that the GM variety could contaminate existing plants.
Last August, with two years remaining in the trial, the plants were hacked down by vandals. Smallholders, who make up the majority of coffee-growers, fear that GM strains will enable richer farmers who can afford the technology to put them out of business. Emotions are running high, so the attack on the trial was not altogether surprising.
Not everything was lost, however. The team collected enough resultsbefore the trial was ruined to show that the modification produced the desired effect. "Seventy per cent of our GM trees were totally resistant to the coffee leaf miner," Christophe Montagnon of CIRAD revealed last week at a seminar on GM coffee hosted by the International Coffee Organization in London. In contrast, all the controls were attacked by the insect, which stunts the growth and reduces the yield of the plants by burrowing into leaves and hampering photosynthesis. In other respects, the GM and non-GM plants performed identically.
If the trial had been left to run for a further two years, it would have shown whether continued resistance against the larvae gave the GM crop an edge in yield. Any adverse environmental effects would also have been easier to spot.