Industry to re-think GM pollen barrier

17 May 2000

Industry to re-think GM pollen barrier

By FWI staff

ISOLATION distances intended to prevent cross-pollination from genetically modified trial crops will be reviewed at the end of the year.

Data from trial sites will be analysed by pro-GM industry group the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC), which is organising and overseeing the current trials.

SCIMAC will seek to determine what impact the trials are having on other growers, and will involve other interested parties in the review.

Existing segregation distances have been described as wholly inadequate by opponents of the trials.

On Wednesday environmental group Friends of the Earth claimed that honey bought from an area where GM crops were grown last year contains GM pollen

SCIMAC says the separation guidelines are adequate and based upon internationally recognised distances used in the UK for 35 years.

But a government reply to a report from the Agriculture Committee on segregation of GM foods said SCIMAC had indicated it would “review separation distances in light of experience”.

SCIMAC chairman Roger Turner confirmed this would take place later in the year.

He said: “Well look at the effects the trials could have on other growers, and this will be based on science, not emotion.”

Dr Turner said this had been planned for some time, but was not done last year because there were not enough trials to provide sufficient information for a review.

He said other groups would be involved, but could not give a list at this stage.

Soil Association campaigns officer Harry Hadaway welcomed the review but said SCIMAC had been forced into this by public pressure.

“SCIMAC has been taken aback by the ferocity of public reaction to the sites and have to come up with something more acceptable to the wider community.”

He said he was disappointed the government was not had not taken a stronger role in the policing the trials.

Mr Hadaway said he expected the Soil Association to be involved in the review.

Existing rules mean that GM oilseed rape may be grown within 200m of an organic crop of the same species, and 50m from conventional varieties.

GM sugar beet may be grown 600m from organic beet and 6m from conventional varieties.

The Soil Association, which can withdraws certification from organic crops cross-pollinated by GM pollen, wants to see a six-mile (9.6km) notification zone.

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