2 June 2000
GM crop victims await cash news

by FWi staff

HUNDREDS of farmers are still waiting to hear whether they will receive subsidies if they destroy thousands of hectares of genetically contaminated crops.

Up to 600 growers will be unlikely to find a market for 1.5m-worth of oilseed rape planted from seed contaminated with genetically modified material.

Some of the growers want to destroy the crops but it is remains uncertain whether they will receive an estimated 1.5m in subsidies if they do so.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown was told of the fiasco six weeks ago. But farmers leaders are still waiting for confirmation that the subsidy will be paid.

An extension to a Brussels subsidy deadline means that the farmers now have until 15 June to decide whether to rip up 4700ha (11,000 acres) of the rape.

However, by then farmers destroying the crop will suffer severe yield losses if they plant something else and it could be too late to grow a new crop altogether.

Demands for compensation have been dismissed by Advanta Seeds UK, the Lincolnshire-based company which supplied the seeds to the farmers.

But growers hopes have been buoyed after it emerged that some of the rape was sown on a Scottish estate belonging to Harrods boss Mohammed al-Fayed.

The multi-millionaire is stranger to litigation and is consulting with the Scottish National Farmers Union before deciding whether to take legal action.

Scottish NFU president Jim Walker told Farmers Weekly that he felt ministers had shown a total lack of judgement in their handling of the situation.

If officials had asked for input from farmers representatives, we and others could have advised them of the practical implications of their actions.

Mr Walker said that Mr Brown, as Britains senior agriculture minister, had to take control and show some leadership in a bid to resolve the crisis.

Farmers in Germany, France and Sweden were also supplied with the seed.

Greenpeace this week helped a farmer cut down 5ha (12 acres) of a contaminated rape crop in south-west Germany.

The organisation has also filed a lawsuit against the regional government of Baden-Wurttenberg for allowing contaminated rape to continue growing.

Some 600ha (1483 acres) of the spring crop was planted in France. A similar amount was planted in Sweden. Both countries ordered the crop destroyed.