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TITLE:  UK OKs Syngenta application for new GM wheat trial
SOURCE: Reuters, by Veronica Brown
DATE:   Apr 8, 2003

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UK OKs Syngenta application for new GM wheat trial

LONDON, April 8 (Reuters) - Britain has approved a new field trial of
genetically modified (GM) wheat, as hundreds of U.S. farm groups press
for a moratorium on its full-scale introduction amid trans-crop
contamination worries about one of the world's most important foods.

A spokesman from Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs (DEFRA) said on Tuesday an application from Syngenta Seeds Ltd,
part of Syngenta AG, to release GM wheat had been approved for a field
research site to be run by the company.

"They are purely research and development trials on their own site in
Berkshire (southern England)," the spokesman told Reuters.

But organic campaigners said that the development was worrying.

More than 200 groups representing farmers and the organic sector in
Canada and the United States are calling for a ban on GM wheat due to
fears that one of the world's most lucrative and widely grown commodities
could be contaminated by manipulated genes.

UK organic group, The Soil Association, has said GM soya, maize and
oilseed rape could have cost the U.S. economy eight billion pounds since
1999 in farm subsidies, lower crop prices, loss of major export orders
and product recalls.

It also said that farmers are not achieving the higher profits promised
by the biotechnology companies.

"This has been so fiercely fought against in America and Canada because
non-GM farmers there are so concerned about contamination and they are
fighting really hard to ensure that GM wheat is not introduced there
commercially," Soil Association spokeswoman Sue Flook said.

Britain is expected to make a decision later this year on whether to grow
gene-spliced crops commercially, but shoppers -- bruised by a string of
food scares such as mad cow disease -- are wary.

Scientists say gene technology could solve world hunger, with GM crops
that produce higher yields and are insect, disease and drought resistant.

Opponents say growing such crops could change the face of the
countryside, by contaminating traditional varieties.

The government announced a national public debate on GM crops in Britain
earlier this year, but drew criticism early when it confirmed a major
scientific review of the technology would end before the field trials finish.

UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher, who has spoken out against GM
crops, said recently that Britain might implement new measures to protect
organic farmers in the event of their crops being contaminated by gene-
spliced varieties.

No-one from Syngenta Seeds Ltd could be reached immediately for comment.