I think what's interesting is the lack of "Frankenfood" hysteria this time, compared to, what was it, 15 years ago?
I don't actually see anything too scary about this research. I don't see it as anything new, as humanity has hybridised animals and plants for millennia - wheat itself has been hybridised, of course; modern wheat varieties are shorter as result of, er, genes introduced by hybridisation 50-odd years ago. (Hybridisation itself is an evolutionary mechanism to transfer genes across
species and routinely occurs in nature.)
And maybe it's just me, but it matters not if you physically take a gene out from a physical plant, or synthesise the same gene in a lab: it's the same mint gene (in this case).
That said, I get the specific concern raised here, that of the efffects of wind on pollination. I stand to be corrected, but my understanding is that the literature overall tends to point to the fact that the distances are much shorter than the study you've cited; that even then the chances of successful hybridisation are slim, especially as wheat is self-pollinating (it's difficult to hybridise them "naturally", as routinely happens with other crops); and then for it to be successful
in an environment in which competition is limited, makes it close enough to zero as to not really any lose any sleep over.
I note that the Meister Russia
article dates from 1921; that the particular variety of wheat being referred to in "plot 648" is one that is not used in Britain, anywhere, let alone for any trial (much more modern varieties are used); and that the wheat crossed with rye in a neighbouring row
- not in a field, not several hundred metres and it was not a wheat-to-wheat hybrid.
And while in 2004, not much research into measuring gene flow may not have been done, some research since has. Rieben S, Kalinina O, Schmid B, Zeller SL Gene Flow in Genetically Modified Wheat
(2011) suggested that:
pollen-mediated gene flow between GM and non-GM wheat might only be a concern if it occurs within fields, e.g. due to seed contamination
I guess overall I find it difficult to be arguing for less
research, which is in effect what a number of the GM crop protesters are doing - problems often arise because of a lack of research; not because there's been too much.