29 September 2000

More GMnotice

ENVIRONMENT minister Michael Meacher wants rural communities to be given much longer notification of planned GM trials.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mr Meacher said seed companies should give six to eight weeks notice.

At present, 10 days notice must be given, often conveyed through local newspapers.

"Notification of six to eight weeks is needed," Mr Meacher told those attending a Countryside Agency lunch.

"This would allow for negotiations between the local community and the farming community."

But Bob Fiddaman, NFU representative on pro-GM industry body SCIMAC which is organising and overseeing the current trials, said this was unrealistic.

Although farmers could try to say where the GM site would be while a previous crop was growing, circumstances could change and they may want to move the site.

Under Mr Meachers proposals, they could not do this, leaving farmers disadvantaged, said Mr Fiddaman.

And if producers waited until crops were harvested before making an announcement, they would miss the window for drilling crops such as winter oilseed rape.

In any case, said Mr Fiddaman, farmers had to inform immediate neighbours of their plans well in advance of drilling.

"Mr Meachers proposals sound like a political nicety, but they are not sensible or practical for farmers," he said.

Farms minister Nick Brown, who was also attending the Countryside Agency lunch, said it was vital that the science behind GM technology was explained to the public.

But he refused to be drawn on Mr Meachers suggestion.