Azara Blog: The BBSRC awards some grants and makes big play of it for some reason

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Date published: 2007/01/10

The BBC says:

British crop scientists have been awarded £13.3m for a series of research projects, including one aimed at keeping broccoli greener for longer.

The University of Warwick team will analyse DNA from the vegetable in an attempt to improve its shelf life.

Other schemes include an attempt to develop crops which are able to withstand attacks from insects.

In all, 18 projects will get grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The University of Warwick researchers have been awarded almost £500,000 to identify genes in broccoli that will extend its shelf life and maintain its nutritional value for longer.

"One of the problems is that it actually turns yellow in the fridge quite quickly," said David Pink, from Warwick HRI, University of Warwick.
When questioned whether their work would require delving into the field of genetically modified (GM) crops, the researchers told reporters it would not.

Talking about his project, Professor Pink said: "It will all be using natural variations that are available in broccoli, or we could also go and look for genes that are currently in cabbage or cauliflower because they are [in the same plant group] but are not in the broccoli gene pool."

However, he did say that there was a GM option available to his team.

"We would use a different approach where we would actually shut down the response of the flower head to ethylene, one of the gases that causes the yellowing."

"But we are not going down that route because GM is not acceptable at the moment, and not acceptable to our plant breeding partner," he said.

Professor Julia Goodfellow, BBSRC chief executive, said the grants were awarded to ensure the UK remained home to some of the best plant science in the world.

Why is the BBSRC and the BBC giving these particular grants so much attention? There are zillions of grants given every year, all doing work as interesting and important as that mentioned here, so it's bizarre that these should get such prominence. And what does it say about the state of plant science in Britain that the team cannot use one important technology, so-called GM, for no good reason. The so-called environmentalists don't like this technology, for religious reasons, and they have managed to scupper the technology in Europe. So Goodfellow is wrong, these grants show exactly the opposite of what she claims. The UK (and Europe) is not "home to some of the best plant science in the world", since much of modern plant science is apparently not even allowed to be done. And this is not to mention that £13 million is but a drop in the ocean. The BBSRC would have been better placed not to have a press meeting where it had to be admitted that British plant science has been successfully intimidated by the so-called environmentalists.

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