Pressure Forces UK to Restrict Field Tests of GE Crops

Pressure Forces UK to Restrict
Field Tests of GE Crops

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin),
1. Beckett tightens rules on GM crop trials - Times
1. Beckett tightens rules on GM crop trials
The Time (UK), SATURDAY JANUARY 19 2002

THE Government signalled a U-turn over genetically modified crops last
night that could delay any commercial planting for years. Ministers made
clear that human safety will be paramount before approving any planting.

In a blow to the biotechnology industry, Margaret Beckett, the Rural
Affairs Secretary, indicated that the results of the official farm
trials to see if GM crops harm the environment - due next year - will
not be enough to justify the lifting of the moratorium. She said that
there would have to be a further independent review to satisfy the
Government that GM technology had no adverse effects on human
health or the environment.

People will also be able to make their views known in public debate
before any go-ahead for GM planting is authorised. In a further
climbdown, the Governmentsaid there must be much greater separation
distances between GM crop sites and organic and non-GM farms. Ministers
appear to have accepted consumer concerns and wish to ensure that any
GM contamination of crops through cross-pollination is restricted to
0.1 per cent. This is far stricter than the 1 per cent level set for the
GM content of animal feed.

Before Christmas the European Commission proposed a new distance
of about three miles to achieve a contamination level of 0.3 per cent
for GM oil-seed rape crops. With ministers keen to achieve 0.1 per cent,
however, the new separation distances could be as much as six to ten

The Government has told the biotechnology industry that it must
spend six weeks consulting local parishes about GM trial sites this
spring before any go-ahead is given. Mrs Beckett announced the new
approach in a letter to Professor Malcolm Grant, head of the Agriculture
and Environment Biotechnology Commission. She wants him to advise
her by April on how best to engage the public in a debate, if GM and
non-GM farming can co-exist, and his views on separation distances.

Adrian Bebb, spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said the Government
was clearly distancing itself from the trials. "They are also acknowledging
that separation distances need to be massively expanded to protect
neighbouring farmers from genetic pollution."

Professor Vivian Moses, chairman of the CropGen panel, a pro-GM
panel made up of scientists and academics, was disappointed by the
Government's approach: "It really is important for the Government to
give overt encouragement to the development and application of new
Press Release
Immediate: Friday 18 January 2001


The prospects for the commercial development of GM crops in the UK looks
uncertain today after a major shift in Government policy on the future
of GM technology.

In a little-publicised response [published 17/1/02] to a critical report
into the controversial GM farm scale evaluations (FSE), Environment
Minister, Margaret Beckett says that:
. the results of the GM evaluations are insufficient to allow for the
commercial growing of GM crops,
. there will be a public debate on whether GM crops should be
commercially grown;
. there is a case for separation distances to be massively increased to
protect neighbouring farmers.

The admissions are contained in the Government's response to the
Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission's report, Crops on
trial (

Commercial growing: The Government has distanced itself from the results
of the farm scale trials by declaring that the decision on growing GM
will now "be based on more that an analyse of the FSE results" and that
"there will be a public debate on the possible commercial growing of GM

Separation distances: The current separation distances between GM and
non-GM crops have been set to ensure contamination is a maximum of 1%
(50 metres for conventional oilseed rape). The Government now agrees
"there is a case for separation distances to be greater so as to ensure
a maximum of, for example, 0.1% cross-pollination". This would
represent a huge increase in separation distances. The EC proposed last
year that for oilseed rape seed production to achieve a contamination
threshold of 0.3% would require a separation distance of 5km.

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:
"Finally the Government appears to realise that pollen from GM crops
threatens neighbouring crops and the environment. The current GM
separation distances are woefully inadequate. A small country like
Britain can't grow GM and non-GM crops together. The Government must
pull the plug on this risky and unpopular experiment for once and for

Adrian Bebb 07712 843 211 (mob) Pete Riley 07712 843 210 (mob)

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