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GE Test Site Near Organic Seed Center Sparks Furor in UK

GE Test Site Near Organic Seed Center Sparks Furor in UK

Aventis GE Corn Test Site Near Organic Seed Center Sparks Furor in UK
May 6, 20001
THe Independent (UK)

EXCERPTS:
The threat is so serious that Michael Meacher, the Environment minister,
is this weekend making an unprecedented last-minute bid to stop the
trial, which he says is seen as "highly provocative", even though his
own department announced it a month ago. Neither he, nor the government
committee that authorised the trial, was aware that it was close to the
research station when it was given the go-ahead.

Environmentalists alleged that GM firms had "pulled a fast one" on Mr
Meacher in an attempt to discredit him before a post-election reshuffle.
The industry denies this, though it privately makes no secret of its
desire to have him sacked.

"This shows the contempt in which the industry and advisers within
government now hold democratically elected views. It shows that the only
way in which something can be achieved is by taking direct action, and
highlights what the 1 May protesters were saying."
- Alan Simpson MP

see also BBC report:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_1315000/1315208.stm

includes: 'HDRA director Alan Gear said no-one except Aventis actually
wanted the trial to go ahead. "Why should the interests of a
multi-national company run rough-shod over the will of the British
public?"
---
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=70709

Trials of GM maize threaten unique organic seed cache
By Colin Brown and Geoffrey Lean
06 May 2001

GM maize is to be grown in an officially sanctioned trial close to
Europe's largest research centre for organic crops, threatening the
future of organic farming in this country.

The trial, which is due to begin this week in Warwickshire, is bound to
spark the biggest row yet in the controversy over GM crops in Britain.

Environmentalists yesterday said that the effects could be "truly
catastrophic" for organic agriculture, and an MP said that he would
support direct action to stop it.

The experiment, part of the Government's official "farm-scale trials" of
GM crops, is to take place within two miles of Europe's largest research
centre for organic crops at Ryton, near Coventry. The centre ? run by
the Henry Doubleday Research Association ? carries out trials on organic
crops for the European Union and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food and is home to one of the world's foremost organic seed banks.

The threat is so serious that Michael Meacher, the Environment minister,
is this weekend making an unprecedented last-minute bid to stop the
trial, which he says is seen as "highly provocative", even though his
own department announced it a month ago. Neither he, nor the government
committee that authorised the trial, was aware that it was close to the
research station when it was given the go-ahead.

The Soil Association warns that the GM maize ? being tested by the food
firm Aventis at New Farm near Wolston, Warwickshire ? could
cross-pollinate with three crops of organic sweetcorn grown at Ryton,
and in turn contaminate the seed bank. Any trace of GM in the
association's fields would lead to it losing its licence to grow organic
crops, and pollution of the seed bank would strike a devastating blow to
the world's attempts to save rare varieties of foodstuffs.

"It is hard to overstress how serious this is," Patrick Holden, the
director of the Soil Association, said yesterday. "The effects of this
trial could be truly catastrophic both for the research station and for
organic farming as a whole. This is the worst example so far of a
programme of insidious pollution of the world's food crops by the GM
industry."

Mr Meacher told The Independent on Sunday last week: "Clearly
there has not been proper consideration of the impact of the choice on a
highly prestigious organic research centre of this kind."

He said he was writing to Aventis, SCIMAC (the industry body overseeing
the trials) and the official Scientific Steering Committee that
authorised the use of the site to ask them to reconsider. In a separate
but related move, he is also asking for the sowing of two sites at
Mathry, Pembrokeshire, to be delayed so that there can be more
consultation with the public.

But late last week Aventis said that all three sites would be sown this
week. The firm added that the farmer at the Warwickshire site had rung
to ask what he should do, and had been told to go ahead.

Mr Meacher is credited with having given the Government's GM policies
credibility and a degree of public acceptability after its initially
strong pro-industry approach ran into opposition. But he is being
increasingly marginalised in Whitehall, and repeatedly out-voted on the
cabinet committee in charge of GM policy.

Environmentalists alleged that GM firms had "pulled a fast one" on Mr
Meacher in an attempt to discredit him before a post-election reshuffle.
The industry denies this, though it privately makes no secret of its
desire to have him sacked.

Although Mr Meacher's department announces the sites to be used for the
trials, he has no part in choosing them.

Dr David Gibbons, a member of the committee, told The Independent on
Sunday
late last week that it had not been told of the sites'
proximity to the Ryton research station. Roger Turner, SCIMAC's
chairman, said yesterday that there had been no attempt to deceive the
committee. He added: "If there is a reaction to this site, the industry
needs to sit down and think about whether it should go ahead."

But Aventis said that "politics was now getting involved" with a site
chosen by an independent scientific committee.

Last night Alan Simpson MP said he would support direct action to stop
the trial. He said: "This shows the contempt in which the industry and
advisers within government now hold democratically elected views. It
shows that the only way in which something can be achieved is by taking
direct action, and highlights what the 1 May protesters were saying."

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