17 September 1999
GM crop trials could be abandoned

THREE trial crops of genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape could be dug up after the government admitted it acted illegally in allowing them to be planted.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher said he would not contest an application by Friends of the Earth for a judicial review of the procedures governing GM trials.

But the green group could decide to pursue the matter in the courts, which may result in the fields being dug up, according to the London Evening Standard.

Nevertheless, next years programme of farm-scale trials is expected to continue as planned, Mr Meacher told the paper.

FoE had accused the government of bending the rules to allow AgrEvo to increase the area of GM crop trials in time for planting this autumn.

It also claimed that government officials allowed AgrEvo to change the GM crop being tested without submitting a new application.

The application to extend the trials was not properly presented to the governments Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, said FoE.

The biotech company AgrEvo said last week it would press ahead with its farm-scale trials of GM rape despite a the FoE challenge.

Three of the four GM oilseed rape trial sites due to be started this autumn have now been planted, according to a progress report from the company.