17 June 1999
Government to tighten GM crop rules
By FWi staff
THE government is expected announce a tightening up of the regulations issued to the biotechnology industry on the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops.
The rules are due to be overhauled because official research now shows GM crops can cross-pollinate with conventional plants over greater distances than the government has previously acknowledged.
New findings from the John Innes Centre are said to back claims that pollen from GM crops can cross-pollinate with organic varieties of the same crop many miles away.
The John Innes Centre, one of the most respected institutes working on GM crops, was commissioned to undertake the research by the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF).
The Government will have “no option” but to increase the distances that GM crops are grown from other crops, according to a front-page report in todays Independent.
Current regulations mean that GM varieties of oilseed rape can not be grown within 200m of a registered organic crop of the same species.
But the no-go zone will be extended by MAFF following negotiations between organic farming groups and environmentalists as well as the biotech industry, says the paper.
The John Innes Centre report is thought to have found that 1% of organic plants in any field could become GM hybrids because of the pollen spread by GM crops.
It concludes that contamination by either seed or pollen cannot be “entirely eliminated”.
The research backs up concerns raised by environmentalists of the dangers of cross-pollination from the various trials taking place across the country.