Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Farmer destroys GM crop trial
Weedkiller left the rape brown and dead
Reacting to the news, Jeff Rooker, the UK Government's Food Safety minister, told the BBC: "There are people who are hellbent on making sure the government is not able to conduct the trials to get this [environmental safety] information.
Advocate of GM technology
The farmer, Captain Fred Barker, is a strong advocate of GM technology.
On Saturday he used weedkiller to destroy a 26-acre crop of GM rapeseed which was planted at Easter. He said the destruction would leave him out of pocket.
The trustees are opposed to the government-run trials and were unhappy that other crops on the farm were to lose their organic status because of the trial.
"However, the trustees of my family settlement have very different views and have all along not been in favour. Recent events have made them come out against this GM trial."
Trial aims unharmed
The biotechnology company which developed the seeds on trial, AgrEvo, said they were "deeply disappointed".
"The objective of this year's trials was to get some core data. We believe the government can be reassured that the remaining six trials will give them that core data."
He added that some uncertainties have been voiced over the environmental impact of GM crops but said: "The government is right to say 'lets do this work to clarify certain areas'. We fully support the objectives of these trials."
Bitter blow to government
However, green campaigner, Professor John Whitelegg, told the BBC: "It's entirely in line with the general rejection of GM food and crops and the whole approach to forcing this technology on the population at large.
"The vast majority of organisations and individuals don't want it. I think we'll see more of [this action] in the future."
John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, said where trials were needed to assess environmental impact, they were being carried out. "You have to have objective scientific information and that's what these trials are about."
At the weekend, commentators suggested that comments by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, represented a softening of the government's line on GM crops.
Mr Blair told the BBC: "We're in the position, as the government, where it is almost as if people say you're the greatest advocates of GM food. I'm not the advocate of anything other than keeping an open mind."
However, the Environment Minister, Michael Meacher also speaking over the weekend, appeared to take a stronger line. He said that there were "very great uncertainties" about GM technology.
On Monday, John Prescott dismissed any difference: "They are both saying the same thing - we are aware of the concerns of the electorate."