6 August 2001
Organic farmers anger at GM sites

By FWi staff

ORGANIC farmers have attacked plans to run genetically modified crop trials near organic farms.

A total of 78 certified organic farms fall within a 6-mile radius of designated sites for winter-planted trials, according to organic accreditation body the Soil Association.

Organic farmers are concerned that pollen from GM crops could contaminate their crops and threaten their organic status.

It claims the government had given assurances that every step would be taken to ensure GM trials were not planted close to organic farms.

The group says organic farmers were not consulted before the sites were announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on July 23.

Yet the government could easily have obtained a record of every organic holding in the UK, it says.

The association is undertaking risk assessment for all farms within the critical area, covering crop type, the layout of the land and prevailing wind direction.

The Soil Association says an internationally known organic research centre was threatened by GM contamination in May.

But the GM trial near the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA), in Warwickshire, was halted after massive public opposition, the association says.

Association campaigns officer Michele Burton, said the location of the new trial sites is a real set back for the organic movement.

We were sure that after the HDRA debacle in May the government would have wised up to the fact that contamination can occur and that organic farmers and the public are staunchly opposed to any GM contamination of organic crops, she said.

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