GENET archive


APPROVAL / PLANTS: Bayer cancels GE potato field trials in the UK

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  GM potato trial cancellation has wider implications
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   14.05.2007

GM potato trial cancellation has wider implications

GM Freeze welcomed the decision of the biotech company BASF not to
proceed with a trial of GM blight resistant potatoes near Hedon in East
Yorkshire this year because of concerns of local borage farmers about
the availability of bee hives to help pollinate their crop.

The Hedon area is home to three major borage growers who grow the high
value crop to produce gamma linoleum acid (GLA) which is used
therapeutically for a number of common health conditions. The crop
relies on beekeepers to bring in hives of honey bees to ensure a height
level of pollination is achieved.

Following the announcement in March 2007 by BASF about the GM potato
trial, the beekeepers expressed concerns to the borage farmers about the
possible contamination of borage honey with GM pollen and pointed to
their industry's guidance that required hives to be a minimum of 6 miles
from the nearest GM site. The owner of the proposed GM site was reported
to want the borage farmers concerns had to be dealt with before he
finally agreed to the trial going ahead.

Today's decision not to go ahead with the trial in 2007 by BASF
indicates that their attempts to reassure the borage farmers have
failed. Defra issued a release consent for the trial today meaning it
can go ahead in future years.

The case has wider implications for GM crops. Last year Defra's
consultation on the coexistence of GM, conventional and organic crops
did not include beekeepers in the list of people who would be
statutorily required to be informed by a farmer intending to
commercially grow a GM crop. [1] The value of pollination services
provided to farmers by beekeepers is put at 120 to 200 million per
annum. [2]

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

"The cancellation of the Hedon GM potato site is warmly welcomed - we
could never see the point of allowing this commercial development trial
to go ahead when we already have a growing number of blight resistant
potato varieties produced by conventional plant breeding. Consumers
don't want GM potatoes and the potato processors have said they will not
use them. We hope this is the end of GM trialling in Hedon and the rest
of the UK.

"The impact of the trials on honey and beekeepers has been central to
the cancellation. If any GM crops are ever approved for commercial
growing in the UK this type of problem could become common place. Defra
have repeatedly tried to ignore the impact of GM crops on beekeepers and
the potential economic impacts but at Hedon they have been stung. The
economic and agricultural importance of honey bees can no longer by
sidelined by Defra's GM policies. Ministers need to learn the lesson of
the debacle over the Hedon site and protect beepers from GM
contamination in the future".

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065

[2] Parliamentary Answer from Ian Pearson to Joan Ruddock MP 3 May 2007
House of Commons Hansard Column 1792

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Defra approves a second site for GM potato trials
SOURCE: Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, UK
AUTHOR: Press Release 129/07
DATE:   14.05.2007

Defra approves a second site for GM potato trials

After public consultation, Defra has now given approval for a site in
East Yorkshire to be used by BASF for its GM potato trials programme.
The statutory approval is valid until 2011. BASF will not proceed with
trials at the East Yorkshire site this year, but may do so in future years.

Last December Defra gave approval to BASF to undertake research trials
of a GM disease-resistant potato at a site in Cambridge.

The BASF application for the East Yorkshire site has been evaluated by
the independent expert group the Advisory Committee of Releases to the
Environment (ACRE). It is satisfied that trials at this site will not
result in any adverse effect on human health or the environment.

The GM potato developed by BASF is resistant to late potato blight. This
can be a significant disease problem for UK potato growers, who normally
combat it by applying chemical fungicides. The purpose of the research
trials is to test the effectiveness of the potato's resistance against
UK pathotypes of the disease. Similar trials are already underway in
other European countries.

Reflecting ACRE's advice, precautionary conditions have been attached to
the statutory consent for the trials. These aim to ensure that GM
material does not persist at the trial sites. The harvested GM potatoes
will not be used for food or animal feed.

1. Details of the BASF application, ACRE's advice and the statutory
consent document can be found on the Defra website at
environment/gm/regulation/consents/index.htm (the consent reference is

-------------------- archived at --------------------


the news & information service of the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... hartmut.meyer(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer