23 April 1999

£3.3m GMevaluation study gets go-ahead

THE government has awarded research contracts worth over £3.3m for a study comparing the impact of conventional and genetically modified crops on farmland wildlife.

The study will be carried out by a consortium led by the Natural Environment Research Councils Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. It will take place within the governments farm-scale trials on sites in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, with a third site still to be announced.

Environment minister Michael Meacher said the study would take four years and meet the concerns of the governments environment policy adviser English Nature.

"The evaluation programme will ensure that the managed development of the introduction of modified crops takes place safely.

"But the research will not only address issues relating to GM crops. This is an extremely important opportunity to contribute towards a more detailed understanding of the effects of agricultural management practices on farmland wildlife generally," said Mr Meacher.

He added that farm trials would expand next year to at least 20 sites and comparisons would be made between conventional and GM crops after each harvest until 2003.

Meanwhile, a High Court judge has rejected agrochemical company Monsantos application to have protesters who uprooted modified crops at a site in Oxfordshire last year banned permanently from its trial sites.

Mr Justice Klevan said he could not grant an injunction on six members of the environmental pressure group Genetix Snowball because "they may have a defence against it".