Wednesday, February 17, 1999 Published at 17:44 GMT
GM firms fined for safety breach
A barrier between oil seed rape crops was allegedly breached
Two companies have admitted failing to control an area of genetically-modified crops. They were fined a total of £31,000 for breaching government regulations.
The Health and Safety Executive brought the prosecution after a routine inspection of an experimental field of oil-seed rape last summer.
Investigators claim they found a barrier,designed to stop the transfer of GM pollen from herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape to neighbouring crops of un-modified oilseed, had been partially removed before flowering.
This, it is claimed, could lead to the cross-pollenation of the two.
Crown court call
Monsanto had said before the trial it would not be contesting the allegations in court. It was fined £17,000 and ordered to pay £6,159 court costs.
Friends of the Earth had called for the case to be sent to crown court where penalties are heavier. Magistrates can impose a fine of up to £20,000, but crown court fines are unlimited.
"To a company as large as Monsanto, it is less a slap on the wrist than a tickle with a legal feather," he said.
"The big biotech companies must stop playing Russian roulette with the British countryside."
Barrier 'mown down'
"In co-operation with the DETR and MAFF we took immediate steps to limit any potential environmental impact."
It says that part of a barrier to stop GM pollen getting loose had been mown down by a contractor by accident.
All GM plants were destroyed along with any plants within a 50-metre radius, following the HSE inspection.