Industry pulls plug on fifth GM trial

2 May 2000

Industry pulls plug on fifth GM trial

By David Green

A FARM-SCALE trial of genetically modified oilseed rape has been called off two days before local villagers were due to decide whether it should go ahead.

The decision, which affects a site at St Osyth, in Essex was announced on Tuesday (2 May) by the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops.

SCIMAC is the pro-GM industry body which is organising and overseeing the trials programme on behalf of the government.

The move comes two days before 3500 villagers at St Osyth were to be given the opportunity to vote for or against the trial in a local referendum.

Farmer Guy Smith had pledged to abide by the result after announcing he would let the local villagers decide whether it should go ahead.

A SCIMAC statement that the trial would not proceed because it could not operate on the basis of the “current uncertainty and delay” surrounding the site.

“With around 60 sites required across the country, SCIMAC has taken the decision to discontinue this site in favour of alternative locations,” it said.

The statement said the decision in no way diminished Mr Smiths support for the trials programme, nor his belief that GM crops would deliver benefits.

However, Mr Smith has criticised the way that the trials have been organised.

Last month, he wrote to environment minister Michael Meacher after accusing the government of failing to reassure the public over GM crops.

Mr Smith said he had been left on his own trying to defend his decision to host a trial in the face of “near hysteria” opposition from pressure groups.

The cancellation of his trial of GM oilseed rape is the fifth GM trial to have been abandoned by farmers this year in the wake of public opposition.

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