16 February 2000
‘No GM crops before 2003’

By Isabel Davies

THE government has denied that the inclusion of GM maize on an EU seed list will mean that GM crops are grown commercially in the UK before 2003.

The European Commission is considering an industry application to put three varieties of GM maize on the EUs Common Catalogue.

The catalogue is a compilation of all EU member states National Seed Lists.

Pete Riley, biotechnology campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the move would give “green light to the industry to push on with the technology”.

Mr Riley said the government needed to oppose the move because it had promised not to “travel further down the road to commercialisation.”

But a spokeswoman from the governments GM unit said the decision was matter for the Commission and not the UK government.

The move did not change the agreement between industry and government not to grow crops until farm-scale trials had been completed in 2003, she said.

Farmers could theoretically buy GM seeds abroad, but would be unlikely to do so.

“It would be ridiculous.

“A farmer would be breaching the SCIMAC agreement and would also have no market for the crop. It would be verging on the lunatic,” she said.

“There will be no commercial plantings regardless of whether GM maize goes onto the common catalogue,” she insisted.

But Harry Hadaway, GMO campaigner for the Soil Association said he was concerned the government was acting prematurely.

“In light of GM trials not being completed this is another example of relentless government appeasement of demands of the biotechnology industry.”

“By placing GM seed on EU common catalogue they are denying UK citizens the right to demand a public hearing to object.”