3 March 2000

Volunteers are on ground for field-scale trials

REPRESENTATIVES of the biotechnology industry have confirmed that enough volunteers have been found for the governments farm-scale trials of genetically modified crops to proceed.

But until scientists overseeing the trial have considered the applications then exactly how many sites will be drilled this year is still unclear.

Rumours last month suggested the industry was struggling for sites because of a shortfall in the number of farmers willing to take part.

But Roger Turner, chairman of Supply Chain Initiative for Modified Agricultural Crops, the cross industry body set up to introduce GM crops into commercial production, said they had at least the minimum number of sites required.

Judith Jordan of Aventis Crop Science, formerly AgrEvo, confirmed the company had submitted more sites to the scientists in charge than the minimum required.

But while the industry is clear the trial will go ahead the exact number and location of sites is still unclear. If some of the sites put forward are unsuitable it may not be possible to reach the target 25 sites each for GM rape, maize and beet.

Commenting on the increased numbers of farmers coming forward SCIMACs Bob Fiddaman said it was a counter-reaction to the negative publicity for GMs.

Mr Fiddaman also dismissed claims that a GM winter oilseed rape trial in a 10ha (25-acre) field at his farm in Hemel Hempstead, Herts, was a failure because half had not grown. He said yield had never been relevant to the trial and data was still collectable.

He said the loss was not confined to the GM variety, and was down to poor establishment, which was worsened by pigeon damage.n