30 September 1999
Daily papers miss GM news

DEADLINES mean that most morning newspapers do not cover the governments pledge to review the distance it allows between genetically modified (GM) and other crops.

Only the Financial Times manages to include Environment Minister Michael Meachers announcement which was made on the BBC2 Newsnight programme.

Coverage in the other titles instead centres on the study into how far GM pollen can travel which persuaded Mr Meacher to rethink isolation barriers sizes.

The joint BBC and Friends of the Earth research in Watlington, Oxon, showed GM pollen was carried up to 4.5km (2.7miles) by bees.

Airborne pollen was found to carry 475m.

Currently, GM crops must be more than 50m from conventional crops and 200 metres from organic fields.

Most extensive coverage of the research comes from the Daily Mail which has campaigned heavily to raise awareness on GM issues.

In an editorial the Mail claims the new evidence “explodes the assertion that there is no risk of modified genes finding their way into the wider environment.

“Common prudence now demands that the trials programme should be re-examined.”

It accuses the government of “complacency, if not downright indifference,” and of shrugging off legitimate concerns.

It asks: “Is it any wonder if the public is increasingly uneasy at the influence wielded by the agrotechnology industry?”

The Express reports Mr Meacher confirming to delegates at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth that he is determined to press on with GM trials.

But findings of the study “undermined” this stance, claims The Independent.

The Guardian picks up on Mr Meachers promise in his conference speech to ban commercial plantings if any risk was found.

It describes this as “the governments most strongly-worded commitment to ban commercial growing of GM crops if trials indicated risk to people or the environment”.