Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Chief scientist denies rift
The government has authorised farm-scale trials
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) had claimed Sir Robert May was at odds with the government after receiving a letter from him about the conduct of three GM plant experiments.
"Ministers have said they will review whether to allow commercial release of these crops every year," Dr Mark Avery, director of conservation at the RSPB, told the BBC.
"That does seem daft. The government has set up these trials and we believe ministers should say now that they will wait for the results and then make decisions."
"We are not going to give permission for commercial release until we are thoroughly satisfied and until all the appropriate field tests have been done. Where we differ from the RSPB and English Nature is that the science must set the time scale; there should not be some arbitrary moratorium.
"If these test are going to take six months, they take six months; if they take six years, they will take six years."
Dr Avery said such research reinforced the need for tests to be as extensive as possible. "This just adds to the alarm as it shows a new type of worry on these crops," he said.
"As time goes on - and this is why we need more research - we are actually getting more worried about the environmental effects of GM crops, not less."
"One needs to be guided by the evidence, properly peer reviewed, and properly evaluated," he said. Sir Robert criticised lobby groups who, he said, were pushing "anecdotes and wild stories" based on research such as that produced by Dr Arpad Pusztai which turned out to be "garbage".