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Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 00:55 GMT 01:55 UK
Rain dampens GM crop trials
GM BBC
Crop trials are due to begin in the summer
Trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops may be postponed because the recent heavy rain has made the ground unsuitable for planting.

BBC One's Countryfile has discovered that although more than 50 farmers have signed up for the scheme, the majority have failed to plant their crops after double the usual April rainfall.

Unless the weather improves soon, most of the farmers will miss the window for spring planting and risk delaying the government experiments.


Greenpeace activists pull up GM crops
Environmental activists disrupted last year's trials
The controversial trials of modified oil seed rape, sugar beet, fodder beet and maize are due to begin across England this summer.

Their purpose is to help the Department of the Environment assess the potential impact on the countryside of growing GM crops commercially.

The government has put a three-year hold on commercial planting until the outcomes of the current trials are known.

Farmer Bob Fiddaman, was due to drill 25 acres of GM oil seed rape on his land near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire but said the ground was waterlogged.

Opposition

"Ideally the seed should have gone in two weeks ago," he said.

He has another two weeks to get the crop in, "otherwise I'd be planting it for the sake of it".

Environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have strongly opposed the trials, partly on grounds that normal plants may become cross-pollinated with the modified versions.

When seven trials went ahead in 1999, protestors invaded fields and uprooted plants.

Greenpeace has vowed to keep up the pressure on trials this year and has not ruled out further direct action.

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See also:

17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
GM trial sites unveiled
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
GM trials: The long hot summer
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Full list of GM crop sites
15 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Farmers urged to abandon GM trials
11 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
GM crop trials leap in size
26 Aug 99 | UK Politics
GM crop trial suspended
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