GMtrials candidate waiting on local vote before proceeding
By David Green
AN Essex farmer who is due to host one of the farm-scale genetically modified crop trials is awaiting the results of a local referendum on the trial before he goes ahead.
Guy Smith, who farms at Wigboro Wick, St Osyth, near the seaside resort of Clacton, agreed to host a GM oilseed rape trial. But protests have been voiced by local residents and six of them have successfully applied to the local authority for a referendum to be held.
Last week Norfolk farmer Richard Thompson decided not to go ahead with a GM sugar beet trial at Tittleshall after local protests.
The referendum at St Osyth is due to take place on May 4 and Mr Smith says he will abide by the result.
He believes the GM programme has attracted unjustified hysteria but says he would feel "uncomfortable" going ahead with the trial without community acceptance from the 3500 people in St Osyth.
"I will abide by the outcome of the referendum for the sake of community goodwill and also because I do not want to attract trouble-makers who could claim the trial was proceeding in defiance of local feelings," he said.
Mr Smith says the public have not been given enough information about GM crops and the fact they have been planted across millions of acres of land worldwide.
He has already written to environment minister, Michael Meacher, complaining that farmers who agreed to host the new round of GM trials had been left to calm the fears of a public fed on a diet of "disinformation" by the media and environmental activists.
"I find that I am left on my own trying to defend the decision to host a trial in the face of near hysteria and the work of powerful pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth," he says in the letter to the minister. *