24 March 2000

Organic gripes no bar to GMtrials

ORGANIC growers attempts to stop GM trials within a six-mile radius of their farms seem unlikely to succeed after clarification of what the DETR considers to be legitimate concerns.

So far, growers and GM development licence holders have agreed terms on 30 of the 66 sites selected as being suitable for the bio-diversity impact GM trials.

"We expect to be up to 75 approved sites by the time the trials go in the ground," said SCIMAC chairman, Roger Turner. Maize and oilseed rape tolerant to glyphosate ammonium and sugar beet and fodder beet tolerant to glyphosate will be sown.

Only scientific evidence not previously submitted to the steering committee will be considered, it emerged earlier this week. Organic growers near to GM trial sites will have to do more than just raise contamination concerns.

"That isnt a valid reason to stop the work under current legislation," said a DETR spokesperson.

Payment terms for the GM crops are agreed privately between the grower and licence holder at a level based on the yield of the non-GM reference crop and an amount to allow for the extra expense of the trials. Where applicable, IACS payments may still be claimed.

Contrary to some statements, pollen and gene flow from GM field trial sites is being monitored and will be monitored where appropriate on the trials sown this spring.