10 August 2000
Greenpeace says GM trials are illegal
By Isabel Davies
GREENPEACE is challenging ministers over the legality of its farm scale trials of genetically modified crops.
The environmental group claims the government should have applied for planning permission for the sites.
It has written to farm minister Nick Brown and deputy prime minister John Prescott informing them it considers the planting of this winters trails of GM rape to be unlawful.
Greenpeace claims the government should have applied for planning permission to change the use of land involved from agricultural to research purposes.
Campaigner Jim Thomas said: “The governments breathtaking arrogance in ignoring the rejection of GM by citizens and consumers — as well as the risk of genetic contamination — borders on the criminal.
“Now it appears that the farm scale trails are riding rough-shod over planning law as well.”
The group has given the government 14 days to either inform them it will be applying for planning permission or to explain why it will not.
In addition, Greenpeace has asked the government to confirm that it will cease all preparations for this winters trials.
The challenge comes only a week after ministers came under fire for announcing 25 new GM sites before completing a review on what separation distances should be between GM and conventional crops.
Officials admitted that a decision on whether crop distances should be increased would probably not come until after the crops have been drilled.
The government has pledged to wait for the findings of a Canadian study into how conventional oilseed belonging to Advanta came to contain GM material.
The government was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.