02/05/2012 09:52 BST | Updated 03/05/2012 12:10 BST

GM Crops Should Be Protected, Scientists Plead To Protesters

Scientists are pleading with protestors not to destroy an experiment on genetically modified crops, which they say could reduce the amount of chemicals used in farming and help protect the environment.

In an open letter to the protest group 'Take the flour back', John Pickett, a chemical ecologist at Rothamsted Research, in Hertfordshire, said the wheat his team were testing would be beneficial to people worldwide.

“We can only appeal to your consciences, and ask you to reconsider before it is too late, and before years of work to which we have devoted our lives are destroyed forever,” he said.

Protesters, who are worried GM crops could carry viruses and be antibiotic resistant, are reported to be planning a "mass action" against the Rothamsted trial on 27 May.

But Pickett said: “We do not see how preventing the acquisition of knowledge is a defensible position in an age of reason – what you are planning to do is reminiscent of clearing books from a library because you wish to stop other people finding out what they contain.”

The scientists at Rothamsted Research are conducting an experiment to create wheat that can more easily repel aphid attacks.

"Our GM wheat could, for future generations, substantially reduce the use of agricultural chemicals. Are you really against this?" Pickett adds.

"Or are you simply against it because it is “GMO” and you therefore think it is unnatural in some way?"

"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."

However the protesters argue that similar experiments in Canada have leaked into the food-chain costing farmers millions in lost exports.

Organic farmer Gerald Miles, who plans to join the protests, said the experiment would "ruin the market for wheat exports in the UK."

He denied it was an exaggerated claim, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "They can't give us a written guarantee that this won't happen because there's proof of it happening all over the world."

Pickett, who appeared on the programme with him said: "This is not a commercial trial. This is an experiment." He pleaded with Miles not to destroy the crop live on air, saying "please don't destroy our crop."

"I think we ought to move together on this. But if you destroy the crop we will not learn anything from the very hard work we've been putting in over the last 30 years."

Matt Thomson, a spokesperson for Take the Flour Back told The Huffington Post UK the group would destory the crops, saying:

"Why is it being pushed on us again? Why is it risking the most important crop we have in the UK? That to me is an act of terrorism."

Pete Riley director of the anti-GM group 'GM Freeze', which is not involved with the Take the Flour Back protest, told The Huffington Post UK that the public have "rejected" scientists "fiddling about" with food.

"At the moment in Europe there is simply no market for GM crops for human food. The majority don't want anything to do with GM. There is a very strong rejection from the general public in Europe," he said.

"I do not understand why we are investing all this money in something that has no market and may not work in the end when we have a perfectly good scientifically based method of dealing with aphids on crops."

Jo Walker from the Community Food Growers Network said: "This GM wheat contains parts of a virus, traits for antibiotic-resistance, and man-made genes ‘most similar to that of a cow’, it’s hardly surprising no one would want to eat it."