9 May 2001
Bid to stop second GM trial

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

THE abandonment of a genetically modified crop trial in Wales has boosted a campaign against a similar experiment near an organic farming institute.

Scientists have halted the planned trial in Pembrokeshire which would have used GM maize seed developed by the biotechnology company Aventis.

Campaigners against a similar trial growing GM maize close to the Henry Doubleday Research Association in Warwickshire welcomed the news.

The association carries out government-funded research into organic crops and evaluates new varieties for the National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

HDRA spokeswoman Judy Steele said the association could lose organic accreditation if GM pollen from the trial cross-pollinated its sweetcorn crops.

Local MP Andy King (Lab), local councillors, farmers, beekeepers, environmentalists and an allotment association opposed the trial, she claimed.

A delegation had persuaded environment minister Michael Meacher to refer the issue to the governments Scientific Steering Committee for GM crops.

“The Minister has made it clear that he would not like to see a trial to go ahead [near] an institute that carries out MAFF funded organic farming research.”

Ms Steele added: “If pollen from GM maize reached our site we would lose our organic status and trial work would be in jeopardy.”

“At no stage were we or other local farmers consulted about the plan.”

The site had been prepared and the seed company, as it was legally entitled to do, had told the farmer to go ahead despite being within two miles of the institute.

If the Scientific Steering Committee was not told the land was so close to the HDRA centre, there was a good chance the trial could be stopped, said Ms Steele.