7 April 2000

Government failing to back host farmer

AN ESSEX farmer hosting a genetically modified crop trial has accused the government of leaving him to face opposing environmental groups without support.

Guy Smith, whose farm at Wigboro Wick, St Osyth, near Clacton, is the location for an oil seed rape trial, has written to environment minister Michael Meacher asking him to do more to reassure the public.

He wrote: "I find that I am left on my own trying to defend the decision to host a trial in the face of near hysteria and the work of powerful pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth."

But a spokesman for the governments GM crop unit said the government has consistently stated that the trials are essential to evaluate GM crops.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have upped the pressure by using their websites to reveal the full addresses of 26 of the 31 farms initially holding trials.

The government had previously identified the location of sites by a six-figure Ordinance Survey grid reference and the name of the nearest village.

Greenpeace denies it is encouraging protestors to rip up sites.

Its GM campaigner Sarah North said the list was published to tell local people site locations because government references were "not very accurate".

She said: "This was not done to encourage activists – they could get this information anyway. It was done to advise local people whose livelihoods could be at risk from cross-pollination."

But farmers taking part in the trials say government information, advertisements and local meetings have already made people aware. &#42