The results of the GM wheat field trial held by Rothamsted Research in 2012-2013 have recently been published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports. The data show that the GM wheat did not repel aphid pests in the field as was hypothesised and was initially seen in laboratory experiments conducted by scientists at the institute.
Although the GM wheat did not repel aphids in the field, the five-year project did score some notable successes. The use of genetic engineering to provide wheat able to produce the aphid alarm pheromone (E)-β-farnesene (Eβf) was successful and robust – this is a world first and an important proof of concept in plant science overall. GM wheat plants produced the pheromone in significant quantities without major unexpected changes seen in the appearance or performance of the new wheat plants, which looked and yielded as normal.
Professor Achim Dobermann, Rothamsted Research’s Director and Chief Executive, emphasised the role of this innovative trial to deliver more environmentally sustainable agriculture: "We will build upon the knowledge acquired from this study to further develop solutions for sustainable agriculture that will deliver enough healthy food, using less pesticides and minimise the burden on the environment. It is our strategic priority to achieve this goal and we will explore the potential of all available technologies with rigorous scientific experimentation.”
Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “The challenges of feeding an ever-increasing population, in the face of climate change and reductions in herbicide and pesticide use, require innovative thinking and experimentation. However, the reason we do field trials in plant biology is the same as the reason we carry out clinical trials in medicine – laboratory results are not always predictive of real life situations. All negative results are important for guiding future research and so, although on this occasion the lab findings were not replicated in the field, the experimental data will be used to inform the next steps in this vitally important research."
The Rothamstead Research press release can be seen here: www.rothamsted.ac.uk/news-views/scientists-disappointed-results-gm-wheat-field-trial
Story source: BBSRC news release, 25 Jun 2015