EU Ponders Buffer Zone Rule That Could Kill Off GE Crops

EU Ponders Buffer Zone Rule That Could Kill Off GE Crops

August 3, 2001

BY: James Chapman

GENETICALLY-modified crops could disappear from the British countryside
under EU proposals to save conventional farms from contamination.

New rules would force farmers and scientists growing GM crops to have a vast
buffer zone between their land and non-modified crops.

Friends of the Earth revealed a memo demanding that separation distances
should be increased several fold to five kilometres, just over three miles.
Campaigners said the plans from the European Commission's scientific
committee would stop commercial GM crop production before it has had
the chance to become established.

They said the huge distances would make it impractical for farmers to grow
GM crops because all but a handful of sites would be too close to
conventional fields.

'These proposals should sound the death knell for GM farming in the UK,'
said FoE campaigner Carol Kearney. 'In practice, they will mean a choice
between a GM-free future for farming, or GM-only seed and food.
'We are delighted the proposals take the threat of GM contamination so
seriously - this is the only way to protect consumers from the unknown
hazards of GM food.'

The proposals, aimed at preserving the purity of seeds, would also throw the
Government's GBP 4million programme to test GM maize, oilseed rape and beet
into chaos.

At the moment, scientists conducting the nationwide trials only have to keep
them 50 to 200metres away from other agriculture, depending on the type of

Campaigners have condemned these limits as inadequate and Ministers have
admitted there will be 'trace' levels of contamination as pollen from GM
crops is carried by insects and on the wind.

However, even the much greater separation distances proposed by the EC
would still allow contamination of non-GM crops by up to one per cent.
Consumer and environmental groups argue that this figure is still far too
high and threatens the livelihood of neighbouring non-GM farmers and

Last week, the Government announced more sites to test GM oilseed rape with
buffer zones of up to 200metres.

A spokesman for the Environment Department insisted last night that the
programme of tests will continue.

'We are aware of the proposals and it's something we are consulting on,' he

'In any case, commercial growth is a long, long way down the road in

'It couldn't even begin to happen before 2003 when we have finished our

The issue of separation distances came to light after seed contaminated with
GM pollen was inadvertently imported last year and planted at dozens of UK

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