Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Church blocks GM trial
The Church owns 123,000 acres of agricultural land in the UK
The Church of England Commissioners have refused to allow government scientists to test genetically modified crops on their land.
Scientists told the commissioners that the land would be used for scientific trials, which was understood to mean the possible planting of GM crops.
But the commissioners said the church would not lease the land until after an inquiry into the "theological implications" of genetic modification.
The block came after the church's Ethical Investment Working Group, charged with examining the GM issue, concluded it needed a "a period of further deliberation and reflection".
"The group is conscious that it is more important to come to a right view than a hasty one," a spokesman told BBC News Online.
"It's an extremely complex issue."
He added that the church was "aware of the issues and not afraid to confront them".
'More information needed'
The Rev Paul Cawthorne, a Telford vicar campaigning for further GM research by the Church, welcomed the decision.
"I'm calling for greater public consultation and reflection from within the Church to understand what ethical issues are involved before making any decision."
He said that debate had started within the Church but that it also required more information about the tests, including details of processes and timescales.
"There has been a concern that this process has been developed too speedily for us to understand the full implications of it," he said.
The Church of England owns more than 123,000 acres of agricultural land in the UK, said to be worth £237m.
Trials of GM crops have proved to be controversial and sites have been targeted by protesters.
Christian Aid raised concerns about the effects of the technology on farmers in the developing world.
On its website, the Church of England lists possible problems with GM foods including antibiotic resistance, gene transfers to other species, environmental consequences and international issues.