London (08.05.17) – The same themes keep repeating themselves. About five years ago we commented on a view that Europeans may have already been technology-averse ten or eleven thousand years ago, something still seen to day in the morbid fears many people in Germany seem to harbour with respect to agriocultural biotechnology (1). It has come up again in an article (2) which illustrates the dread some people appear to have for entirely innocuous phenomena.

In the Münsterland, the finding of orange petunias from Finland has led to uproar. Some peolple are worried that the colour is due to genetic engineering in the petunia ancestry. The Finnish authorities say there is no risk to health. We know little about the genetics of colour in petunias but orange flowers surely means hanky-panky somewhere in their history.

True, there appears to be an alternative theory that the petunias originated from the graves of INCA emporors but one surely cannot be too careful.

Moreover and, it seems, entirely unnoticed by the general public, Adidas and the biotechnology company AMSilk are together marketing (or preparing to market) a sports shoe the upper part of which is made from genetically engineered silk.

Foodwatch said they were against this shoe. Consumers do not want genetic engineering. At the very least, the shoes should labelled.

Greenpeace, not to be outdone, observed that genetic engineering is generally bad for the environment. It would be better to abandon these shoes. Genuine footwear is possible.

Barbara Hendricks (SPD), the Federal Minister for the Environment, does not want genetic engineering on German soil. The shoe is bad for biodiversity because where it hits the ground nothing grows. The pressure also damages bugs, ants and soil life. And it promotes mobility and accelerates the running speed so that more runners emit more climate-damaging carbon dioxide.

So it goes on and on. Oh dear, our dear and fearful friends and neighbours….


1. Umbral fears: are they in the genes? CropGen (14.05.12) (

2. Ludger Weß (04.06.17). Vorsicht, Gene!. Salonkolumnisten (

Note added 21.05.17:

In the UK, the Horticultural Trades Association has issued a notice about the petunias saying they have notified the UK authorities (3). They state that the orange-coloured petunias pose no threat to people, animals or the environment, that they are not frost-hardy, that neither the plants or their seeds will survive in a British winter and that they cannot spread into the wild in the UK countryside. We are grateful for those reassurances.

3. Genetically modified (GM) material found in orange petunias. Horticultural Trades Association (05.05.17) (


  Our fearful friends