24 March 2000
Two farmers pull out of GM trials

TRIALS of genetically modified crops have suffered a setback after two farmers pulled out of the project.

Carl Clayton from Ulleskelf, near York, admitted he had pulled out, but refused to comment further, reports The Times.

But the newspaper reports that 300 people had staged an emergency protest in the village hall, and even threatened legal action.

Andrew Roughton, from Friskney Tofts, near Skegness, Lincolnshire, also confirmed he was pulling out, apparently after receiving a petition, reports the same newspaper.

The Guardian reports that many villagers opposed the plan and local businesses threatened to stop trading with the farm.

According to the same newspaper, Mr Roughton decided to plant conventional beet after deciding not to wait for biotechnology company Novartis to supply GM seed.

The Guardian also reports that biotech company Monsanto has said its contracts with individual farms are not intended to bind them to carrying out trials.

Last week the government published grid references of 31 farms it said had signed up to stage trials of maize, beet and oilseed rape, and said it wanted to raise the figure to 80.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth said the trials now risked descending into farce, but the governments GM unit insisted the pullouts would not affect tests.

Farmers Weekly this week reported that farmers were offered up to 10,000 each to take part in farm-scale trials of GM oilseed rape.

Meanwhile, an error in the governments grid reference has meant that a Suffolk farmers field has been wrongly listed as a trial site.

Now Patrick Hitchcock of Brockford Green fears his newly sown conventional sugar beet will be wrecked by anti-GM protestors.