2 June 2000
GM farmers to receive compensation
by Johann Tasker and Alistair Driver
ADVANTA Seeds is to offer compensation to hundreds of British farmers who unwittingly planted thousands of hectares of genetically contaminated crops.
The level of compensation remains unclear and will be decided after talks between company representatives, independent assessors and farmers leaders.
However, farmers leaders estimate that up to 600 farmers have lost about 3m after planting thousands of hectares of GM-contaminated oilseed rape.
Until now, Advanta has resisted pressure to compensate growers since it emerged last month that some of its rape seed contained GM material.
But growers who drilled up to 4700 hectares (11,000 acres) of contaminated rape should now destroy the crops, said a company statement on Friday (2 June).
After detailed discussions of other alternatives, Advanta has now determined that the only practical course of action is for farmers to remove these crops.
Company representatives presented proposals for a compensation package for farmers at a meeting with government officials, the statement said.
Details of the process for determining this package have been communicated to farmers via agricultural merchants today [2 June], it added.
Independent agricultural advisors, professional loss adjusters and the farmers unions of England and Scotland will be asked to propose the final settlement.
The Advanta statement said: It is expected that the advisory panels will reach their conclusions in the next few weeks.
Company officials denied any liability for the fiasco. But many farmers will see the compensation offer as a tacit acknowledgement that they made a mistake.
Arable grower John Sanderson was the first farmer to destroy his GM rape when he ploughed in about 11 hectares (26 acres) near Harleston, Norfolk.
Any compensation may need to go beyond the cost of planting the crop and then ploughing it into the ground, he told Farmers Weekly.
Mr Sanderson said he may have difficulties selling produce grown in the field in future and could not indicate how much compensation he would be seeking.
Farmers unions are still unsure about whether farmers need to plant another crop in order to receive subsidy payments, which would involve further cost.
The National Farmers Union, which will represent English growers in the compensation talks, gave a cautious welcome to the news.
The union estimates that the fiasco has cost British farmers in the region of 3m about 1.5m in lost revenue and approximately 1.5m in subsidies.
However, European Union officials have indicated that producers will still be able to receive the full amount of subsidy if the crops are destroyed.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, said: Anything that can resolve the situation quickly to the satisfaction of farmers has to be welcomed.