26 March 1999

No GMsecret deal

GOVERNMENT policy enforcer Jack Cunningham has dismissed newspaper claims of a secret pact between the government and biotech companies to introduce a moratorium on the planting of genetically modified crops.

In his role as chairman of the cabinet committee on biotechnology, Dr Cunningham rejected any notion of a secret deal.

"Let me make it quite clear that there is no secret deal between government and industry in respect of GMs nor has one been sought nor is one under discussion," he said.

Bringing bio-sciences and GM programmes to a halt with a moratorium would be remarkably absurd, he added.

Meanwhile, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has called on farmers to join the call for a moratorium on the commercial release of modified crops.

The societys conservation director, Mark Avery, urged farmers to back the RSPB, government wildlife policy adviser English Nature and other conservation groups in promoting a cautious, science-based approach to regulating modified crops.

"The farming community has been strangely quiet over GM crops and its time that its voice was heard in favour of wildlife and sound science. Now is the time to get off the fence and insist GM crops are fully assessed for environmental safety before commercial release," Mr Avery said.

Farmers had been vilified as the enemies of wildlife for too long and he urged them to seize on an opportunity to set the record straight.