2 October 2000
MAFF denies ‘secret’ GM trial claims

By FWi staff

MINISTRY of agriculture officials have rejected claims that they concealed a “secret” genetically modified crop site from an organic farming group.

The Soil Association questioned data from a GM maize trial site submitted to a hearing on the proposed addition to the National Seed List of GM maize seed Chardon LL.

It referred to data from a trial crop in Totnes, Devon, in October 1998 – two months after it was apparently destroyed by anti-GM campaigners.

Indeed the Soil Association said it received a letter from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, which conducted the trials, confirming the destruction.

From this, the Soil Association deduced that MAFF and NIAB either fabricated evidence or kept a secret site nearby.

A MAFF spokeswoman admitted there was a second site which survived the attack, but insisted that it was no secret.

One site, an observation crop, was destroyed by protesters. The second, a trial site for adding the variety to the National Seed List, survived.

She added that NIAB had written to the Soil Association to advise it that one trial site had survived.

These trials are quite separate from controversial ongoing GM field-scale trials, she stressed.

The public hearing on the proposed addition of Chardon LL – a GM herbicide-tolerant forage maize – started in London on Monday (02 October).

Listing is the final regulatory hurdle before the seed company – in this case Aventis – can sell its seed to farmers.

However, national listing of Chardon LL would not lead to immediate commercial cultivation of the variety.

Under an agreement between the seed industry and the government, there will be no marketing of the varieties until farmscale trials are complete.

Environmental groups have logged 67 objections, and a ruling is not expected until next year.