4 April 2001
GM trials ‘are foot-and-mouth risk’
By FWi staff
ENVIRONMENTAL activists want genetically modified crop trials halted as they claim at least 17 are in areas infected by foot-and-mouth.
Six-figure grid references of 28 trial sites where GM maize will be planted this spring in England and Wales were published on Tuesday (03 March).
The Department of the Environment said that, depending on weather and soil conditions, the crops would be planted from the end of April.
But Friends of the Earth says nine of this batch are within infected areas, as are 17 of the 81 trials announced this year.
The Department of the Environment says that 19 trial sites are within restricted areas.
FoE says the trials should be abandoned as scientists moving between farms and counties may infect farms which are free of the disease.
But the DETR dismisses this, insisting that researchers follow the strictest protocols to ensure that foot-and-mouth does not spread.
FoE food campaigner Carol Kearney said: “The Governments continuing support for the biotech industry is staggering.
“Elections are delayed, footpaths are closed but trials of GM crops in infected foot-and-mouth areas are allowed to continue, despite the obvious risk they pose.
“If the Prime Minister is serious about agricultural sustainability he should cancel this years trials and review the role of these crops in the long-term future of farming.
A DETR spokesman said: “Researchers will not be going on to sites yet, and when they do they will follow strict procedures.”
These include seeking written permission from farmers, checking first with the Ministry of Agriculture, undertaking risk assessment, and restricting assess.
Scientists must ensure they only work on arable sites, avoid contact with livestock, park vehicles away from farmyards, and disinfect on arrival and departure.
Staff may not visit farms known to have cases of foot-and-mouth.
The Government released the locations of 53 sites of spring oilseed rape and beet on 28 February.
Since then, one of the oilseed rape sites has been withdrawn from the programme and replaced by a new site in Warwickshire.
Four more maize sites may be notified in the next few weeks to meet the target of 32 sites set by the Scientific Steering Committee.
Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage