1 October 1999

FoE claim of GM pollen

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners believe they have dealt a blow to government policy on genetically modified crops after they found genetically modified pollen 4.5km away from a government-backed farm scale trial.

Researchers from Friends of the Earth took samples of airborne pollen around a GM oilseed rape trial at Model Farm, Watlington, Oxon, and monitored six bee hives from 500m to 4.5km away from the site during June and July this year.

The BBCs Newsnight team then sent the pollen for analysis at the Federal Environment Agency in Austria which found GM pollen in all six samples from the bee hives and in two of the six airborne samples.

FoE claimed that the research showed that government-approved guidelines, stipulating distances between GM and conventional or organic crops were inadequate.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, which has carried out research on pollen transfer, said: "This is nothing new. We knew that pollen could travel for long distances.

"What is important is the likelihood that the pollen will find compatible plants. Our research shows that, 60m away from a plant, the chance of pollination is only three in a million. And the chance that traits would be expressed from the modified element of the plant are many times smaller than that."

Views vary as new report details extra costs for UK meat

By Jonathan Riley

A new report detailing the scale of extra costs facing the British meat industry compared with other EU member states has provoked a mixed reaction from the farming industry.

The report, The Impact of Further Changes to Meat Inspection Charges and Other Enforcement Costs was compiled by Meat and Livestock Commission chief veterinary adviser John Pratt.

It confirmed that costs linked to BSE controls, such as the collection, removal and disposal of animal by-products from slaughterhouses, put British producers at a competitive disadvantage.

For these services the report estimated that British producers paid an extra £25 for every head of cattle slaughtered, £1.70 for each sheep and £3.40 a pig.

Removal and disposal of specified risk materials, which is not a requirement in all EU countries, added another £4.65/head to UK cattle slaughtering costs.

In addition, the ban on sales of cattle cheek meat for human consumption meant the loss of £4/beast, while the unilateral ban on using meat and bonemeal in pig diets meant UK pig producers had to pay an extra £1/pig for more expensive alternative protein sources.

The report also detailed the different mechanisms for meat inspection charging across the EU and found that only Holland and the UK charged for veterinary inspections on an hourly rate rather than an animal throughput basis.

It suggested that this mechanism placed the UK at the higher end of inspection costs and warned that a proposed increase in inspection hours would penalise the UK still further.

NFU livestock adviser Carol Lloyd welcomed the report as solid evidence of the claims that unnecessary red tape had put the British industry at a competitive disadvantage.

And the British Pig Industry Support Group added that the total additional cost to the pig industry was £80m a year, which had led to a huge increase in pigmeat imports.

But Richard Young, a consultant working for the organic promotion body the Soil Association, branded the report "flimsy", saying that it did not emphasise the extra pressure that red tape had on smaller abattoirs.

"It has not made a proper comparison of the potentially devastating impact on smaller throughput abattoirs that the charging of hourly veterinary inspection costs could have. The report, therefore, has painted only a partial picture of the problem," said Mr Young.

FoE claim of GM pollen

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners believe they have dealt a blow to government policy on genetically modified crops after they found genetically modified pollen 4.5km away from a government-backed farm scale trial.

Researchers from Friends of the Earth took samples of airborne pollen around a GM oilseed rape trial at Model Farm, Watlington, Oxon, and monitored six bee hives from 500m to 4.5km away from the site during June and July this year.

The BBCs Newsnight team then sent the pollen for analysis at the Federal Environment Agency in Austria which found GM pollen in all six samples from the bee hives and in two of the six airborne samples.

FoE claimed that the research showed that government-approved guidelines, stipulating distances between GM and conventional or organic crops were inadequate.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, which has carried out research on pollen transfer, said: "This is nothing new. We knew that pollen could travel for long distances.

"What is important is the likelihood that the pollen will find compatible plants. Our research shows that, 60m away from a plant, the chance of pollination is only three in a million. And the chance that traits would be expressed from the modified element of the plant are many times smaller than that."