4 May 2001
Villagers demand end to GM trials

By Tom Allen-Stevens

RESIDENTS of an Oxfordshire village are demanding that a local farmer pulls out of genetically modified crop trials.

Christopher Lewis, who farms 2,000 acres with his stepson around Hinton Waldrist, has agreed to carry out farm-scale trials of GM maize and oilseed rape.

But local residents have called for the crops to be destroyed after environmental group Friends of the Earth claimed they could damage gardens.

FoEs Jo Ripley claims the buffer zones of 200m required in the trials are wholly inadequate as pollen could be transferred by bees for up to six miles.

“The GM rape could contaminate vegetables grown nearby, such as radishes, cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts,” said Ms Ripley.

These claims incensed gardeners at a public meeting who called for the trials to be destroyed before the crops flower.

“We were never consulted as to whether these trials should go ahead in the first place,” protested one resident.

Mr Lewis said it would have been unfeasible to obtain consensus among villagers and in any case, regulations covering the trials do not require it.

The maize trial will be investigating the effects on the local bio-diversity of using the broad-spectrum herbicide Liberty (glufosinate-ammonium).

For both trials, five hectares of conventional crop is grown next to five hectares of the GM variety – material from Aventis.

Mr Lewis, a Royal Agricultural Society of England council member, believes GM technology could help feed a growing global population.

He says he has researched GM crops thoroughly and has not taken the decision to grow them lightly.

“If I thought there was any danger of doing damage, I would not be growing them.”

As a result of the meeting, the parish council will be inviting the Department of the Environment and independent experts to address concerns of local residents.

The 82 farm-scale GM trials taking place this spring, include 11 for fodder beet, 15 sugar beet, 28 maize and 28 oilseed rape.

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