GM trial marred by border skirmish

9 May 2000

GM trial marred by border skirmish

By Donald MacPhail

CONFUSION surrounds the future of a genetically modified maize trial site at the centre of a border dispute between a biotechnology company and environmentalists.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) recently revealed that the trial site, described as being in Cheshire, was actually over the border at Sealand, Flintshire, in GM-free Wales.

The Welsh Assembly, which has not given permission for any GM trial, demanded that Westminster move the trial across the border into England or scrap it altogether.

FoE Cymru told Farmers Weekly that the farmer at the centre of the row in had withdrawn from the trial. But this was denied by Aventis, the biotechnology company holding the trial.

Aventis insisted that the field-scale assessment was going ahead unless government scientists advised the company otherwise. The farmer had not dropped out, an Aventis spokesman added.

Any decision to move the trial would have to come from the governments scientific steering committee, which had approved the location, the spokesman added.

“Weve done all were required to and will go ahead and drill unless someone from the steering committee says they dont want us to do that,” he said.

But this contradicts a statement by FoE Cymru GM campaigner Raoul Bhambral, who claimed that the farmer had pulled out after the green pressure group “raised the alarm”.

FoE Cymru has called on the Welsh National Assembly to adopt a policy to formally ensure Wales was a GM-free environment.

A Welsh Assembly spokeswoman said the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions had given assurances that the Sealand trial would be moved.

She said: “We have not been consulted and the assembly would have to give permission for any trial to be held in Wales.

“We were told there were no plans for any trial in Wales.”

A spokeswoman for the DETR could not confirm or whether or not the trial would go ahead in its present location.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace claimed on Tuesday (9 May) that another farmer in Yorkshire had pulled out of the governments GM trials.

Excluding the disputed Welsh/Cheshire site, that would bring to seven the number of farmers who have pulled out of the GM trials since they started eight weeks ago.

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