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7-Misc: UK insurance farns farmers to plant GE crops

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TITLE:  GM trial warnings
SOURCE: Farming News, UK
DATE:   June 18, 1999

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GM TRIAL work is in danger of grinding to a halt in the UK as
both biotech companies and those involved in the Government's own
farm-scale evaluation programme find it increasingly difficult to
persuade farmers to allow their land to be used for the
controversial crops. Fear of being exposed to costly legal damage
claims from neighbouring farmers, as well as possible long-term
environmental problems, are turning out to be as significant in
the decision-making process as concern over direct action by
anti-GM protesters. Meanwhile, 'GM-free zones' are on the

One insurance expert admitted that with GM crops being such a
grey area, farmers choosing to grow them were "virtually on their
own". Underwriting manager at the NFU Mutual [insurance run by
the National Farmers Union], Sid Gibson, confirmed to FARMING
NEWS that the principles surrounding GM crops were not clearcut
and the Mutual was trying to formulate its policy. "The big
unknown is where there is a risk of cross contamination," he said
"Farmers considering growing GM crops should get their legal
advisers to look at the contract very carefully. Responsibility
should be with the biotech company or institution carrying out
the trials." Chairman of the Arable Research Institute
Association, Frank Oldfield, confirmed that insurance was a major
issue. "I've come across a number of farmers who have said they
are prepared to grow GM crops, but want to know who's going to
insure them. If we can't grow the stuff we'll be out on a limb,
at a disadvantage with the rest of the world."

This week it became clear that the South West of England is well
on the way to becoming the first UK 'GMO-free zone'. All the
region's agricultural colleges are expected to become no-go areas
for GMOs, following the Royal Agricultural College's decision not
to take part in farmscale GM crop experiments. "The possibility
of the college being targeted by vandals was simply too great,"
farm manager Mike Limb told FARMING NEWS. The Duchy of Cornwall's
London estate offices said that all future tenancy agreements
would prohibit farmers using the technology and it was
encouraging existing tenants to adopt the same policy.

County council farm estates in the region also look likely to
follow Somerset County Council's decision to block cultivation of
GM crops on its 10,000acre estate. But Dr Peter Lutman, the co
ordinator of the BRIGHT project set up to investigate day-to-day
management problems on-farm, appealed for farmers to come
forward. "GM crops are not up to commercial standards using
conventional farm practice," he said. "Only by monitoring day-to
day management problems on-farm can we learn to grow them safely
and successfully".

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