Don’t Destroy Research

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When plant scientists from the publicly funded Rothamsted Research appealed for discussion not destruction of their GM wheat crop trial in the summer of 2012, the public came out in their support.

More than 6,000 people from stay-at-home mums to insurance brokers, air traffic controllers to film makers, signed the Don’t Destroy Research petition. Sense about Science played a key role in coordinating the appeal; the direct approach taken by the researchers, appealing to the public and the protesters, was highly effective. The day of action aimed at destroying the wheat crop failed and the wheat trial is ongoing. Read the appeal by Rothamsted researchers.

Watch the video


Here are just some of the comments we received from those who signed the petition:

“Destroying research is worse than burning books. These protesters appear to want a return to the Garden of Eden, but in reality they are taking a step towards the Dark Ages. They should let this research continue to completion and then we can decide democratically what to do with the results.” — Simon Singh, science writer

“Scientific research has improved our lives immeasurably. Long may it continue.” — Martin Binfield

“Please support Rothamsted researchers’ appeal to protesters: “Don’t destroy our scientific research” — Jim Al-Khalili, physicist and broadcaster

“The latest assault on what remains of Castle Enlightenment: please support Sense About Science” — Stephen Fry, @stephenfry

“Our knowledge of plants today, built through research funded by tax-payers, is such that we can now use it to secure our food supply more sustainably. If there is anything detrimental to be found out about any one technology, research will bring it to light. Destroying research will leave us in the dark about both the benefits and the weaknesses.” — Professor Dale Sanders, director, John Innes Centre

“Having spent several years as a plant breeder it is difficult to see how we will reduce production costs and increase crop yields without genetic modification. But without any evidence both positive or negative we will never know if GM is beneficial.”  — Peter Dickie, farmer

“You have my support. There is no substitute for this kind of dialogue and I only wish more scientists would engage with protesters, and the public in general, to make their case in this way.” — Mark Hammonds, nurse

“Research is a process which has lead to human advancement in many areas. i.e medicine. Without this, the world as we know it would not exist. Therefore to advance research must not be destroyed.”— Aaron Davies, musician

“I’m not convinced GM crops are a good idea, but without the evidence how can we tell?” — Rob Robinson, research ecologist

“We need a fresh debate about GM that reflects the new realities of global food security, poverty and sustainable development. Given the urgency of the need for evidence based policy and innovation to tackle these challenges, it is vital that scientific research into the pros and cons of GM is allowed to continue… We need discussion not destruction. You can’t argue the science is not understood and then destroy trials intended to do just that.” — George Freeman, MP

“Wanton destruction adds nothing to the sum of human knowledge.  We need an honest, informed debate on the benefits of GM crops and the potential threats and that won’t be achieved by destroying this research.” — Chi Onwurah, MP

“BBSRC strongly defends the right of scientists to conduct legal and robustly regulated experiments. This is a core principle of scientific research in the UK. Without conducting experiments and trials we cannot hope to generate the evidence and knowledge that all parties interested in the GM debate would like and need to see.” — Douglas Kell, chief executive BBSRC

“As scientists we know only too well that we do not have all the answers. That is why we need to conduct experiments. And that is why you in turn must not destroy them.” — Robert Craine, finance

“Please don’t destroy valuable research.” — Rebecca Walker, stay-at-home mother

Read more comments from members of the public supporting the Rothamsted researchers’ appeal.

Select Coverage

Superweeds: are GM trials a danger to society? Varsity blog (28 June 2012)

True greens know GM is the answer, the Sunday Times (3 June 2012)

GM debate between Take the Flour Back and Rothamsted Research, Guardian (1 June 2012)

The GM debate is growing up, Guardian opinion (30 May 2012)

Green groups and scientists in battle amid sun, cheese and folk music, Nature blog (28 May 2012)

Food battle looms on Hertfordshire fields, FT (25 May 2012)

Sense about Science trip to Rothamsted, The Pod Delusion (13 May 2012)

Misplaced Protest, Nature editorial (9 May 2012)

GM researcher: ‘Please don’t destroy our crop’, Today programme, BBC Radio Four

Published: 13 September 2016