17 January 1996

Marker gene concern

INCLUDING an antibiotic-resistant marker gene in commercially available genetically modified maize is of deep concern to farmers.

The NFU biotechnology working party believes it is vital that UK farmers are at the forefront of biotechnological advance, to allow them to increase their competitiveness. But the union shares consumers concerns about the inclusion of antibiotic marker genes in genetically modified products. Ciba Geigys GM maize, with an ampicillin-resistant marker gene, was recently cleared for sale in the EU.

"We believe it to be technologically unnecessary and certainly undesirable," Ben Boot, chairman of the working party, told NFU council. And Ben Gill, NFU deputy president, pointed out that in modified maize, the antibiotic resistant marker gene was used for the early part of the research programme and could easily have been removed before the product was marketed.

"They (the manufacturers) chose not to, and that was sloppy science," Mr Gill added. And he also criticised the choice of antibiotic-resistance for the marker gene because ampicillin was widely used in human medicine. &#42

Tim Bennett wanted a single payment for sucklers.