7 August 1998

GM maize reprieved

ENVIRONMENT minister Michael Meacher has refused to ban a variety of genetically modified (GM) maize, despite evidence that it can harm the lacewing, a beneficial insect that eats aphids.

He has accepted advice from the governments Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) that further research is necessary before a ban could be justified.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth accused Mr Meacher of allowing the biotechnology industry to play Russian roulette with the countryside. "A five-year moratorium on genetically engineered crops should be imposed until the risks are properly understood," said FoE campaigner Pete Riley.

But Novartis, the biotech firm that developed the Bt Maize variety in question, insisted that the weight of international scientific opinion, and previous trial work, did not substantiate the suggestion that the plants interfered in any way with the lacewing population. &#42