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TITLE:  Alert on spread of GM seeds
        Inquiry call over threat to government scientist
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by Paul Brown
        http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/story/0,9061,1006219,00.html
DATE:   Jul 26, 2003

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Alert on spread of GM seeds
Inquiry call over threat to government scientist

Farmers who have grown genetically modified oil-seed rape on their land
as part of the government's trials have been warned not to grow
conventional oil-seed on the same land this autumn for fear of
contaminating it.

The Department of Environment issued the warning yesterday to prevent
farmers growing crops that might become unsaleable in Britain because
they contained too much GM material.

In a statement the department said research showed that seeds persisted
in the soil in greater quantities than previously thought.

The environment minister, Elliot Morley, said: "There is concern that
seeds remaining in the ground from the GM trial will germinate and that
the harvested crop might exceed the new EU thresholds on GM-free crops."

Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, said: "This is further proof of the
damage that GM crops can cause, and another reason why the government
must not allow them to be commercially grown in the UK."

Meanwhile the Soil Association has written to the prime minister asking
for an investigation into who threatened a member of the government's
review panel into GM crops.

Andrew Stirling, an expert in science and risk, complained about being
threatened with losing his research budget and professional standing if
he was critical of the technology.

He made a formal complaint to Sir David King, the government's chief
scientist, who is chairman of the review panel. Sir David made the threat
public, describing it as deplorable.

The letter that Dr Stirling wrote to complain about the threats was due
to be published along with the minutes of a committee meeting, recording
its disquiet at the attempt to suppress academic freedom.

But the Department of Trade and Industry vetoed this claiming the letter
came too close to identifying the person who made the threat and that it
may attract a libel action. Dr Stirling made it clear that the threat was
not made by a member of the science review team.

Dr Stirling, who works at the science policy research unit at Sussex
University, has refused to name the person who made the threat and was
"on holiday" yesterday but is known to have insisted that the undue
pressure on him should be made public. His colleagues on the committee agreed.

The minutes of the last meeting report Sir David as saying that the
committee "depended fundamentally for its success on members being able
to contribute in good faith, without fears that clandestine attempts may
be made to undermine their research, their professional standing or their
funding.

"The cumulative effect of such fears might easily serve to suppress open
discussion, reasoned argument and substantive criticism. Ultimately, such
behaviour by individuals in privileged academic or regulatory positions
threatened seriously to compromise the credibility and proper functioning
of the science advice system. The panel strongly endorsed this."

The panel made its review of scientific research into GM crops public
last Monday without any mention of the threat to Dr Stirling.

It was revealed that another member of the committee, Professor Carlo
Leifert, an organic farming expert, had resigned but no reason was given.




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GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
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--


GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  coordination(at)genet-info.org
web:    http://www.genet-info.org