Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Security fears over GM crop tests
Protesters say they will continue to campaign against GM crops
The precise locations of four new genetically-modified crop trial sites have been revealed on a government Website, despite fears they could be attacked by protesters.
A unit spokeswoman defended the decision to reveal the locations, amid protests from farmers and commercial groups behind the trials.
She said: "The government is very committed to being open about these trials."
Last month Greenpeace claimed to have undermined the whole GM test process after its supporters allegedly destroyed a field of modified maize at Lyng, Norfolk.
But the new sites will not be given any extra security. Downing Street said it was a matter for local police forces, who "will be on hand to deal with any difficulty".
"I'm all in favour of openness and transparency, but the difficulty is that environmentalists have lost the argument and are determined not to let the trials go forward to show that there are environmental benefits from these crops," he said.
He said the BPBA had recommended to the government that it did not publish the sites' specific locations, and that other parts of Europe, such as Germany and France, revealed only the county in which the trials were being carried out.
He said he understood people's concerns about he trials, but thought they would prove to be "beneficial".
But Greenpeace said it will continue to campaign against the test sites, which would include "non-violent direct action".
The group's food campaigner, Jim Thomas, described the sites as "irresponsible", he said they were "releasing genetic pollution into the environment".
Trials are 'a farce'
"The market and the public have said no to GM crops, and the government's research has shown they will contaminate organic food and other farms," he said.
Greenpeace has been working with communities around the country and recently commissioned a MORI poll in which 63% of those questioned said they would oppose a GM farm-scale trial being planted near them.
Another environmental group, Friends of the Earth, called the trials "a farce".
Campaigns director Liana Stupples said: "The government's policy is to plant field after field with GM crops and see if anything goes wrong. This isn't science - this is creeping commercialisation."
The trials have already been condemned for being based on what one MP called "incompetent" scientific standards.
Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour: "All the scientific benchmarks currently in use are at best haphazard and at worst incompetent."
At the same time, the National Consumer Council has warned that poor labelling of GM foods is leading consumers to believe that they are not being given vital information.
It said 85% of 1,000 people questioned in a survey were worried they were being denied access to the full facts on goods ranging from GM foods to digital television.