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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 01:25 GMT 02:25 UK
GM trial 'threatens organic centre'
Crop field
Researchers fear cross-pollination with GM crops
A genetically-modified (GM) crop trial in Warwickshire could threaten Europe's largest research centre for organic crops, according to newspaper reports.

The GM maize trial, due to begin this week, could have "truly catastrophic" effects on organic agriculture in the UK, environmentalists say.

The Independent on Sunday reported that despite his department announcing the trial at Ryton, near Coventry, Environment Minister Michael Meacher has made a last-minute bid to stop the trial.


Why should the interests of a multi-national company run rough-shod over the will of the British public?

Alan Gear
HDRA
The government committee that authorised the trial and the minister were not aware it was within two miles of the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA)headquarters, the paper reports.

HDRA, which has a major organic seed bank, conducts research on organic crops for the EU and Maff.

It fears cross-pollination from GM crops, pollution of the seed bank and the loss of Soil Association organic creditation.

No control

Soil Association director Patrick Holden said: "This is the worst example so far of a programme of insidious pollution of the world's food crops by the GM industry."

Mr Meacher told The Independent on Sunday: "Clearly there has not been proper consideration of the impact of the choice on a highly prestigious organic research centre of this kind."

Although Mr Meacher's department announces new test sites, he does not have control.


Clearly there has not been proper consideration of the impact of the choice on a highly prestigious organic research centre of this kind

Michael Meacher
Environment minister
Mr Meacher told the Independent on Sunday he was writing to food and pharmaceutical company Aventis, Scimac (the industry body overseeing the trials) and the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) that authorised the trial, asking them to reconsider.

It is believed Aventis, which is worried about "politics" entering the trials process, has insisted the Warwickshire trial site would be sown this week as planned.

Dr David Gibbons, a member of the SSC, told the Independent on Sunday that it had not been told of the site's proximity to the research headquarters.

Industry 'contempt'

One MP, Alan Simpson, advocated direct action to stop the trial.

He said: "This shows the contempt in which the industry and advisers within government now hold democratically elected views.

"It shows that the only way in which something can be achieved is by taking direct action, and highlights what the 1 May protesters were saying."

HDRA director Alan Gear said no-one except Aventis actually wanted the trial to go ahead.

"Why should the interests of a multi-national company run rough-shod over the will of the British public?"

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