GM crop waste dumped in landfill sites

18 February 1999

GM crop waste dumped in landfill sites

By Isabel Davies

GENETICALLY modified (GM) crops, described by environmentalists as a “biohazard”, are being dumped in landfill sites – with government approval.

Current controls allow the harvested material from GM crops from trial sites to be disposed of in one of three ways – incineration, landfill, or in animal feed.

Decisions on the disposal of plants from trial plots are taken on a case-by-case basis by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

A spokesman for the Department of the Environments biotechnology unit was unable to provide information about how much GM material was disposed of in each way.

Greenpeace, which is campaigning for a five-year moratorium on the commercial planting of GM crops, immediately branded the dumping of the crops as irresponsible.

“Ideally, GM crops shouldnt be grown at all, and anything that is should be treated with immense caution,” said Doug Parr, Greenpeace campaign director.

But Bob Fiddaman, the National Farmers Union representative on the pro-GM Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops, insisted: “If it is the case that landfill is considered a safe means of disposal within the regulations, then I have no reason to say that it isnt.”

Tim Yeo, shadow agriculture minister, told FWi that the news called into question the credibility of government statements on GM crops.

“The integrity of the research depends on using incineration to dispose of what has been grown,” he said.

The news comes as the government is pledging to take a safety-first approach towards GM food.

Environment minister Michael Meacher acknowledged that safety precautions meant the commercial planting of GM oilseed rape, scheduled for next spring, could be delayed until 2001.

“It may well be true that a longer period is required,” he told BBC radio yesterday. “What I want to make clear is that we are proceeding extremely carefully.”

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