Government suspends GM testing

26 August 1999

Government suspends GM testing

THE government has suspended the large-scale farm-trial planting of genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape, which was due to start today (Thursday).

Ministers fear the High Court might have ordered the crop to be withdrawn after Friends of the Earth (FoE) requested a judicial review of the decision to allow the trial.

No date has yet been set for the hearing, at which FoE is expected to argue that civil servants bypassed the rules regulating the planting of GM trials.

The environmental group claims that old licences to grow GM crops were amended to allow new planting dates and a five-fold increase in the size of the plots.

It says a fresh application to extend the trials should have been put before the governments Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

The committee is the GM watchdog body set up by the government to reassure the public that GM trials are conducted in a responsible manner.

Treasury solicitors have asked for an early hearing on the case to allow planting to take place in September – otherwise sowing the crops would be delayed much longer.

The government might also need time to make a further application to the Court of Appeal should FoEs action succeed.

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