2 May 2000
‘GM trials inpervious to rain’
By Donald MacPhail
SPRING downpours will not affect the outcome of trials of genetically modified crops, insists a farmer who has just drilled his trial site.
Double the usual April rainfall left many of the 50 farmers taking part in the controversial trial unable to drill modified oil seed rape, sugar beet, fodder beet and maize.
It had been reported that this delay could result in them missing the window for spring planting and delay the government experiments.
But by Tuesday (2 May) the weather had improved sufficiently for Bob Fiddaman to drill 25 acres of OSR at his farm at Wood Farm, Piccots End, Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire.
Mr Fiddaman, National Farmers Union representative on pro-GM body SCIMAC said that, while yields may be down, the scientific data from the trials would still be valid.
“These trials were never about yields, they were about the technology and how it handles in the field. This will not be affected.”
He said conventional crops have equally been delayed by the weather.
The decision of an Essex farmer due to host a GM trial to abide by the result of a local referendum on whether he should proceed was questioned by Mr Fiddaman.
Guy Smith, who is due to plant GM OSR at Wigboro Wick, St Osyth, says he would feel uncomfortable going ahead without community acceptance.
Mr Fiddaman said Mr Smith was “mistaken” for agreeing to the referendum, as questions could be slanted away from science to personal opinions.
He said if the question asked whether GM technology is safe, then that would be acceptable, as science could be used to argue the case.
“But if people are asked whether or not they like GM technology, then that is a very different question.”
The trials have been dogged with controversy since they were announced.
Environmental groups claimed the government was struggling to find enough farmers willing to participate, a claim which pro-GM groups denied.
Last month Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth published precise locations of trial sites, claiming this was to inform local people.