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The BBC's Robert Pigott:
'A setback in the efforts to reassure the public.'
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The BBC's Environment Correspondent Margaret Gilmore
"At this time of year across the UK yellow flowering oil seed rape dominates the countryside"
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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
Alert over GM seeds
Rape Seed
Some UK rape seed may have been genetically modified
Environmental campaigners have issued a new warning over genetically-modified food after an agricultural supplier admitted it had sold GM seeds with its normal products by mistake.

Advanta Seeds UK told the government that some of its conventional rape-seed "sold and sown" in the UK during the past two years actually contained genetically modified seed.

The company believe their rape seed was contaminated by pollen from a GM crop in a neighbouring field in Canada in 1998.

The admission comes just a day after Friends of the Earth said honey had been contaminated by farm-scale trials of GM crops.

Joyce Quin MP
Joyce Quin MP: No risk to public health

The debate deepened further as Prince Charles delivered the Reith Lecture on BBC Radio 4, saying that tampering with nature could cause great harm to the world.

The Ministry of Agriculture has responded to the latest revelations by announcing measures to tighten the safeguards on the supply of crop seeds.

Agriculture minister Joyce Quin said it was also pursuing international action to get new legal safeguards in place, and that it would work with the industry to establish a new code of practise.

Giving MPs more details of the latest incident, Ms Quin said the GM material had formed about one per cent of the Advanta seeds.

'Lost control'

It is believed the crop may have been planted on nine thousand acres last year, and half that area this spring. But more than half-a-million hectares are planted with rape seed annually.

The oil produced is used for animal feed and in some cases, for human consumption.

However, Ms Quin said it had already been assessed and cleared for food use and field trials in the UK, and that there was "no risk to public health or the environment".

But Friends of the Earth food campaigner Adrian Bebb said it reinforced their calls for a moratorium on GM foods.

"The government seems to have lost control of the GM industry, even before its own trials programme has been concluded," he said.

"We have described genetically modified food as a gigantic experiment with human health and the environment. This latest scandal proves just how right we were."

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See also:

16 May 00 | UK
GM pollen found in honey
03 May 00 | Sci/Tech
US to strengthen bio-food rules
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
GM trial sites unveiled
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