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2-Plants: Fungi resistant GE wheat increases resistence by 10%

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Swiss GM crop trial yields positive results
SOURCE: swissinfo, by Matthew Allen
DATE:   8 Sep 2005

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Swiss GM crop trial yields positive results

A controversial outdoor experiment with genetically modified (GM) wheat
has been hailed a success, says the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

But a lengthy legal battle and extra security needed to protect the site
from protesters caused the project to burst its original budget threefold.

The test, conducted in Lindau-Eschikon in canton Zurich, confirmed
laboratory results that the KP4 gene improved wheat's resistance to fungi
by 10 per cent.

Safety tests on pollen distribution and soil analysis also showed that
the GM wheat posed no increased risk to humans or the environment,
according to project leader Christof Sautter.

Sautter told swissinfo that it was vital to carry out the tests in the
open air and predicted that similar trials may take place in Switzerland
in the future.

"You can simulate temperature, humidity and light conditions indoors, but
you can never simulate the complex interaction with other organisms and
the soil," he said. "There really is no alternative.

"Sooner or later there will be someone in Switzerland asking to conduct a
similar field test, but nothing is known at the moment. It will not be me
as I cannot afford another experience like that - it was too stressful."


The environmental organisation Greenpeace, which opposed the trial both
in the courts and with a demonstration at the site, warned that it has
set a dangerous precedent.

"Dr Sautter has said there will probably be more trials to follow this
one," said spokesman Yves Zenger. "We will continue to oppose these risky

"We are disappointed that our opposition was not taken seriously this
time. No one knows how GM crops will influence the environment in the
long term."

Residents around the experiment zone remain worried about the effects of
the trial for local farmers.

"Our farming community is at risk," said Kurt Schweizer of the group
"Lindau against GM Wheat". "Even if there is just a rumour of
contamination, they will not be able to sell their products.

"We just hope that [the institute] is right and they have kept the
foreign genes within the experiment field."

Scientific value

Professor Ulrich Suter, vice-director of research at the institute, said
the project's budget had mushroomed from SFr350,000 ($280,000) to
SFr950,000 to pay for legal costs, delays, policing and a private
security firm to patrol the site.

But he denied the institute had ignored protestors, insisting that all
the relevant information had been made available.

"We were aware of the opposition, but the researchers had proved that the
experiment was of a scientifically high value, complied with the laws and
had obtained all the necessary approval from the government," Suter told

"Political opposition is not a sufficient reason to stop an important

Christof Sautter added that he could not understand the protests. "I
would appreciate plants that need less chemicals," he said. "From a
scientific point of view there is no need for this opposition to gene


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