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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 21:00 GMT
New GM crop trial sites revealed
Greenpeace environmental protesters, PA
Protesters have ripped up some GM crop trials
The sites for the spring trials of genetically modified maize in England and Scotland have been revealed.

The plantings are the latest round in extensive trials designed to test whether the crops are safe.

The government announced in January that 44 sites would be used for the last of three years of farm trials of genetically modified oilseed rape and beet.

Now the 35 sites for maize planting have been unveiled.

There are 10 in Dorset, four each in Lincolnshire and Norfolk, and two each in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Essex.

It is important for people to know what is happening in their neighbourhood

Durham, Leeds, Telford, Cheshire, Warrington, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Oxfordshire, Wokingham and East Riding will each host one site.

To find out precisely where in each county, click here

The independent Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), which oversees the programme, approved the selection of the 35 sites to be included in the spring 2002 sowing round.

The total number of sites over the three-year programme (60-75 for each crop) is unchanged.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the trials were designed to investigate the effects on wildlife and the environment.

A statement from Defra said: "The government believes it is important for people to know as soon as possible what is happening in their neighbourhoods.

Rigorous testing

"Details of the proposed sites are being announced three weeks earlier than last year. All the seeds in the trials have been through years of rigorous safety tests."

But even if the results of the trials - due next year - are successful ministers may not approve the technology, despite previously insisting the decision would be based on science alone.

Modern biotechnology is far too important to be ignored

GM farmer Charles Foot
Friends of the Earth has long campaigned against the trials.

Pete Riley, one of the organisation's GM campaigners, said the separation distances around the GM crop trials were "pathetic".

"If they go ahead, neighbouring and organic crops within a five-kilometre (three miles) radius will be at risk from GM contamination," he said.

"The government knows the separation distances are inadequate but has recklessly failed to act."

However, Charles Foot, of south Dorset, one of the farmers taking part in the trials of GM oilseed rape, said the research was important.

He told the BBC: "Modern biotechnology is much too important to be ignored and it is absolutely essential these trials are done so that decisions are based on proper scientific data and not on hunch, supposition and superstition."

The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"The results are due next year"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | UK
GM crop trials fuel concern
31 Jan 02 | UK Politics
GM crop trial sites announced
30 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Government signals GM cool-off
07 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
GM foods safe say supporters
28 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Mexican study raises GM concern
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