19 January 2000
Minister slams organic view on GMs

by FWi staff

ORGANIC farmers should accept that their produce may be contaminated by genetically modified crops, a junior agriculture minister has claimed.

The remark, which will infuriate organic producers, was made by Baroness Hayman, minister of state for agriculture, reports The Daily Telegraph

“The organic movement has to recognise and find a way of living with contamination from other crops,” she told MPs on Tuesday (18 January)

Baroness Hayman is the minister responsible for genetically modified crops and is said to have made the remark to the agriculture select committee.

She also told the committee that the government wanted existing separation guidelines to form the basis for future EU legislation, reports BBC Online.

Theres an interest amongst other countries as well as our own, she said.

We are something of a pathfinder here … we would like to see [the guidelines] on a statutory footing.

Last week, a report commissioned by the Soil Association claimed that the biotech industrys existing guidelines were wholly inadequate for GM crops.

Existing rules mean that GM oilseed rape may be grown within 200m of an organic crop of the same species and 50m from conventional varieties.

But the National Pollen Research Unit report says studies have shown that OSR pollen can travel up to 4km (2.4 miles).

GM sugar beet may be grown 600m from organic beet and 6m from conventional varieties. There are plans for new GM beet sites this year.

The report says that sugar beet and maize pollen can travel 800m.

Peter Luff MP, chairman of the agriculture select committee, said the report showed there was a “high risk” of cross pollination between nearby fields.

But Baroness Hayman said the guidelines used internationally recognised separation distances which had already been used in conventional agriculture.

Over time, they had given a seed purity in excess of 99.5%, she said.

However, the minister added that any new evidence about the effectiveness of separation distances had to be considered.

The number of farm-scale GM trials are set to increase from 10 to about 75.