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8-Misc: UK unveils GM sites in face of opposition



----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  UK unveils GM sites in face of opposition
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   March 20, 2000

-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


UK unveils GM sites in face of opposition

LONDON - Britain unveiled the first batch of up to 80 new trial sites 
of genetically modified (GM) crops despite fierce opposition from 
environmental groups and public misgivings about the safety of GM 
food. The 30 farm-scale trials of GM maize, beet and oilseed rape - 
to be planted within weeks - will assess the impact on plants and 
insects as part of decisions on the viability of growing the crops 
commercially. GM crops will be planted at up to 50 other sites, with 
the locations to be published later this month. The results of the 
trials will be made available after they are completed in 2003.

The precise locations of the 30 sites were revealed by the giant 
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions despite 
attacks by environmental activists that disrupted several of the nine 
GM crop trials conducted last year. Greenpeace executive director 
Lord Peter Melchett, who will appear in court next month after being 
arrested during a protest at a GM test site in eastern England last 
year, has declined to say whether similar actions would take place 
this year.

Earlier this year, British supermarket Tesco asked farmers not to 
supply it with food from land used to test GM crops. A recent poll by 
the Co-op chain found that fewer than one in five British shoppers 
trusted the government to tell the truth about food safety.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher said on Friday that some of the 
new GM trials could be suspended if there was opposition from local 
residents. "There is no other way of finding out whether or not GM 
crops cause damage to the environment compared to similar non-GM 
crops," Meacher told BBC radio. "I know there is a great deal of 
opposition," he said. "But I want it to be done in a manner that 
satisfies public opinion."

A cross-industry body representing farmers, plant breeders, the seed 
trade and biotechnology companies welcomed the announcement that 
sufficient sites had been identified to allow the GM trials to go 
ahead. "Now we can get on with the job of answering the specific 
questions raised about GM crops on the basis of sound scientific 
evidence, not scaremongering and hysteria," Dr Roger Turner, chairman 
of SCIMAC, said in a statement.

But Lianna Stupples, campaign director for Friends of the Earth, said 
the trials were a sham and should not go ahead. "These trials are 
creating an illusion that we're setting about doing some science and 
that we've got some control over this," she said. "Our own research 
and indeed the government's research has shown that if the pollen 
escapes from these sites then that's going to be genetic pollution in 
our countryside." Stupples also accused the government of secretly 
giving approval to large biotech companies to begin marketing GM 
products before the trials have even been done.
 

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