When the subject of British public attitudes to genetically modified organisms comes up at Genome Campus breaktime conversations I tend to make two standard contributions.

I rail against the “Frankenfood” hysteria of the UK tabloid press (not to mention the bloody Archers) that has all but prevented a rational debate on the subject.

I advance a corollary of my Shiny Things theory of human civilization. Briefly, Shiny Things Theory updates the Guns, Germs And Steel environmental, technology-based view of the development of human societies. No one is going to uninvent modern telecommunications tomorrow. Given even tiny trickles of information flowing inward, any state that is insufficiently free to furnish a large enough proportion of its inhabitants with shiny things is unstable. This is why people streamed over the Berlin Wall: they wanted shiny oranges, shiny VCRs, shiny Mercedes, and, er, shiny denim jeans.

The relevant corollary of this is that, when a shiny thing becomes available in another nation state, if it is sufficiently shiny and other free governments are sufficiently concerned about their stability, they will tend to make the same shiny thing available to their own people too. The shiny thing that will enable GMOs to go global is the genetically modified pet. Monsanto and other companies interested in persuading Britain to adopt GM technology should do everything they can to help American start-ups to develop technologies like hypo-allergenic pets and pet cloning. The sentimental animal-loving Brits will ultimately roll over at the prospect of glow-in-the-dark fish and cutesy-wutesy-widdle Labrador puppies that stay looking like puppies for their entire lifespan. You can hardly complain of the dangers of growing GM wheat if you share your flat with a GM cat.

[This might be an appropriate time to reveal that PooterGeek is fifth highest hit on Google for “decline and fall of western civilization“.]