22 June 2001
Cash on offer for new GM trial sites
By Tom Allen-Stevens
AVENTIS is looking for 50 growers to put forward possible trial sites for genetically modified herbicide tolerant winter oilseed rape.
A sum of 1000 per hectare is being offered as an incentive to grow the crop, although growers will not be able to keep the produce after harvest.
But questions remain whether farmers putting themselves forward are adequately protected from intimidation by certain members of the anti-GM lobby.
The National Farmers Union has called for the Government to review its law and order policy to ensure threats directed at farmers are investigated thoroughly.
People are too frightened to put their heads above the parapet, said Meurig Raymond, vice chairman of the NFU cereals committee in Wales.
He pulled out of GM trials earlier this year after farmers in the area expressed grave concerns.
This followed anonymous, offensive letters and calls in the middle of the night.
Oxfordshire farmer Christopher Lewis is determined to press ahead with a trial of GM maize and spring oilseed rape despite some local opposition.
Theres so much nonsense from Friends of the Earth and others thats knocking farmers and no one is standing up to it, he said.
But sensationalism does not pay. They know Im not pulling out of the trials unless theres a good scientific reason.
Growers interested in taking part in the new Aventis trials should have grown oilseed rape before.
The final decision on the 25 sites will be made by an independent scientific steering committee.
For more on the current farm scale evaluations of GM crops, and for the experiences of Christopher Lewis, see the July 7 issue of Crops.
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