31 March 2000
GM trial sites in race against time

By Alistair Driver

THE body overseeing farm-scale trials of genetically modified crops has revised its target number of GM sites down from 80 to about 60.

Only 28 GM trials have so far been announced. The Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC) faces a race against time to get more trials moving.

Legal requirements mean two weeks between announcing GM trial sites and sowing the crop to ensure the local community is sufficiently warned.

But sugar beet and oilseed rape are traditionally sown by mid- to late-April, making for a tight schedule if more GM trials are to be planted.

Roger Turner, SCIMAC chairman, said he believed another 25-35 farmers will participate this year, taking the total towards 60 rather than 80.

Most farmers would grow GM maize, which is sown later in the year, while some of those growing rape and sugar beet would be based in Scotland, he said.

Scotland “is three weeks behind” the south of the country when it comes to planting dates, added Mr Turner.