29 February 2000
Farmers rescue GM trials

By Donald MacPhail

CONTROVERSIAL farm-scale trials of genetically modified crops will go ahead after farmers came forward at the last minute to offer their fields as sites, it has been claimed.

It had been reported that this years spring trials to test the impact of GM crops on Britains environment were in doubt due to insufficient sites.

Dr Brian Johnson of English Nature, the governments wildlife advisors, is reported to have said this week that only 10 sites were identified out of 75 which are needed.

But Bob Fiddaman, National Farmers Union representative on cross-industry pro-GM body, the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops, denied this.

Instead he insisted that the vast majority of the 75 sites for oilseed, maize and beet trials had now been found.

Mr Fiddaman said: “It was almost a counter-reaction to the negative publicity.

“Some members had kept their heads downs in the past, but have now decided to come forward as the issue has gone beyond sensible discussion.”

He said that the most recent volunteer had contacted SCIMAC on Tuesday (29 February) after reading that the trials were in jeopardy.

Last year, SCIMAC wrote to farmers asking them to volunteer for the trials.

Mr Fiddaman also dismissed claims that a GM winter oilseed rape trial in a 25-acre field at his farm in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was a failure because half had failed to grow.

He said yield had never been relevant to the trial and data was still collectable from parts which had grown.

Mr Fiddaman added that the loss was not confined to the GM variety, and was down to poor establishment, which was worsened by pigeon damage.