It's about sustainable agriculture
What speaks for green genetic engineering, what against it? A debate with Detlef Weigel, Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, and Christof Potthof, biologist at the Gene Ethics Network.
Mr. Potthof, why are you critical of green genetic engineering?
Potthof: There are still a number of unanswered questions about the cultivation of genetically modified plants. They relate to ecology, food safety, consumer protection, socio-economics, for example patent protection, and even extend to criticism of capitalism.
Was there a specific point in your past when you came to the conclusion that you had to be critical of green genetic engineering?
Potthof: The genetically modified maize variety MON810 was cultivated in Germany a good ten years ago. This so-called Bt maize forms a protein that is poisonous to insects and is carried away with the pollen. It affects the environment beyond the field. How do you want to regulate that? That was an interesting question for me. In the gene-ethical network, we provide information to enable as many people as possible to participate in the debate. We organized events and were invited to discussion events. And we supported citizens' initiatives. We still see each other at this intersection.
Mr. Weigel, can you understand that surveys have shown that large parts of the population reject green genetic engineering?
Weigel: Definitely. As a teenager in the 1970s, I experienced the dispute over the storage of nuclear waste first-hand and can still remember the very uncritical and technology-believing positions of the nuclear energy advocates at the time. Much of what was promised at the time did not materialize, and some may now fear the same with green genetic engineering. However, everyone knows that the results of surveys depend on how the questions are worded. If you give people the choice "tomato or tomato with an extra gene", then it is normal that they choose the first. But if you ask "Would you like a GM, unsprayed tomato - or a non-GM one that has been sprayed with chemicals 20 times?", things look different again…