On-farm trials of genetically modified potatoes will go ahead in 2007 despite the withdrawal of the proposed site near Borrowash in Derbyshire.

The farm owner had agreed to host the trial of chemical company BASF’s late blight resistant potatoes but he pulled out saying that he feared for his personal security.

A spokesman for Derbyshire Police said the force was aware that the intense publicity surrounding the GM trial had made the farmer concerned about his family’s safety.

Although, the spokesman said, it was understood that no specific threat had been made to the farmer.

BASF, the chemical company behind the potato trial, described the farmer’s withdrawal as “disappointing and a setback” for the company.

‘Procedures’

“It was particularly disappointing because we had got so far through the required procedures,” a BASF spokesman told Farmers Weekly. He was angry that the farmer had felt pressured into pulling out and he criticised the requirement to publish Ordnance Survey map grid references for on-farm GM sites.

“We have to provide four-figure grid references and later in the procedures a six-figure reference in the interest of openness and transparency.

“That exposes anyone hosting the trial to publicity and makes it difficult for all concerned.”

New site

But he announced that BASF was on the verge of agreeing a new site for the potato trial.

“We have been searching for a new site and there will be an on-farm GM potato trial planted next spring,” he told Farmers Weekly. “We will be making an announcement fairly shortly into the New Year,” he added.

Anti-GM campaigner Pete Riley joined BASF in decrying those who used intimidation as a means of getting GM trials stopped. But he questioned that there was any need for blight resistant GM potatoes.

“The trials are unnecessary because there are already many blight resistant potato varieties on the market and in the pipeline that are produced by conventional breeding,” said Mr Riley of GM Freeze.

“All GM potatoes will do is jeopardise consumer confidence in the British potato. Farmers do not need to have their market undermined. We don’t need GM spuds.”

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