NFU slams GM fodder pull-out

4 May 2000

NFU slams GM fodder pull-out

By FWi staff

THE withdrawal of two Cornish farmers from a trial of genetically modified crops could have disastrous consequences, a senior NFU official has claimed.

The warning was issued by David Carmichael, an NFU representative on the pro-GM industry body, the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops.

It came after Barry and Mary Symons withdrew from a trial of GM fodder maize on 5 acres (2 hectares) at Portholland on the Roseland Peninsula, near Truro.

The couple pulled out after their milk buyers, Peninsula Milk Producers Ltd, advised them to have nothing to do with the trials.

Dr Carmichael said the cancellation could set a dangerous precedent for other GM trials which are due to be completed in 2003.

“It will cause very real problems to the completion of the farm-scale trials, and that would be a disaster for the future of agriculture in this country.

“It would deprive both agriculture and the consumer of a new technology which can do nothing but benefit.”

Biotechnology company Aventis – which was to have supplied maize for the Cornwall trial – expressed disappointment that Mr and Mrs Symons had withdrawn.

A statement said: “The pressure placed on the farmer appears to have been based on fictional heresy and not fact.”

A company spokesman added: “I hope the decision by this company will not set a precedent because it is based on emotion rather than facts.”

But Geoff Lawrence, managing director of Peninsula Milk said the issue was not safety, but rather what his customers want.

A strict assurance scheme which had earned Peninsula Milk a slight premium would be jeopardised if it was associated with GM crops, he said.

“My responsibility is to my members, It would be shooting ourselves in the foot to get involved in anything like this.”

Mr Lawrence was unconcerned if this set a precedent.

“If it means these people who want to make money at the expense of everyone else have to think again, then I hope it does.

“In the end of the day its what the customer wants. Were not going to have things forced upon us.”

Six GM trials have been abandoned by farmers this year in the face of public opposition. SCIMAC has a target of about 60 trials this year.

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