2 April 1999

CWSpulls out of farm-scale GMcrop trials

BRITAINs biggest farming organisation the Co-operative Wholesale Society has opted out of the governments farm-scale trials of genetically modified crops.

The farm trials were proposed to investigate the effects on wildlife of growing herbicide resistant maize and rape, and initially the CWS agreed to host two of the trials.

Field trials first

Spokesman for the CWS Bill Shannon said: "We do not believe that commercial growing should take place until properly conducted field trials have demonstrated there are no environmental problems.

"We are certainly not against genetically modified organisms in principle but our discussions with various parties led us to conclude that the design of this years trials would do little to allay current environmental and consumer concerns."

The societys decision to withdraw comes only weeks before the trials were due to begin.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth claimed that the withdrawal was a major blow to the governments aim to grow up to 25 major trials across the UK with only two trial sites now remaining.

FOE senior food campaigner Pete Riley said: "Only a five-year freeze on commercial planting can rebuild public confidence that the genuine scientific concerns about GM crops are being addressed."