17 April 2000
GM trial results ‘not falsified’

By Alistair Driver

THE Cabinet Office has rejected claims that falsified trial results have undermined the governments drive to commercialise the countrys first GM crop.

Trials carried at Crewe last year by the Suffolk-based firm Grainseed to assess two conventional maize seed varieties were doctored, it has emerged.

A MAFF document says a Grainseed employee altered data from the trials “so that they appeared to be within protocol for dry-matter content at harvest”.

The crops dry matter shows how effective the maize would be in animal feed. The more dry matter a crop contains, the better it is as a feedstuff.

It appears the employee manipulated data on individual varieties, increasing the dry matter of some and decreasing that of others.

At the same time, the company was carrying out trials on the GM maize variety Chardon LL, which ministers have proposed should be commercialised.

A Sunday newspaper claimed that the revelation meant that the government-backed trials of the GM seed had been undermined.

But results from the GM trial were not falsified, according to a Cabinet Office spokeswoman. She said: “”This is not a GM story, it is a seed listing story.”

However, the spokeswoman admitted that the GM maize results had been scrapped. But this was because the GM crop failed – not because of falsified data.

Results from four other seed trials for the GM maize had provided sufficient data, she added. “It has no bearing on the proposed listing of Chardon LL.”

Data from seed list trials on the GM maize carried out in 1998 by Grainseed is being used to assess the commercial suitability of Chardon LL.

The Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “We have reviewed this data and Grainseed data from 1997 and there is no evidence of tampering.”

Peter Riley, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, agreed that the revelation had no direct implication for the Chardon LL seed listing process.

But he questioned whether the 1998 trials had also been doctored.

“How can the public have any confidence in a government decision based on scientific data from a company which has been shown to produce false data?”

Grainseed, which was acting as an agent for the British Society of Plant Breeders, is no longer being used to carry out the trials.