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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"It should be possible to trace the GM crops"
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The BBC's Tom Fielden
"At least 11,000 acres has been planted in Britain this year"
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Friends of the Earth's Adrian Bebb and Dr Richard
Turner from SCIMAC
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Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Anger over GM 'delay'
Rape Seed
Farmers are worried about selling their crop
The government has been accused of "sitting" on news that genetically-modified (GM) crops have been grown accidentally by hundreds of British farmers over the past two years.

Environmental campaigners say ministers have known for a month that Advanta Seeds UK supplied farmers with GM rape seed - mistakenly mixed in with ordinary rape seed.

They, along with opposition politicians, are putting pressure on the government to trace and destroy the crop, insisting it should be possible to find out which farmers were supplied with the contaminated seed.

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

Friends of the Earth food campaigner Adrian Bebb told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What is scandalous is the government has sat on this for a month.

"They could have prevented it, as soon as they heard about it they should have issued a warning and had a product recall on those bags of seeds."

Advanta Seeds UK believes that its rape seed was contaminated by pollen from a GM crop in a neighbouring field in Canada in 1998.

Farmers are now concerned they will not be able to sell their crop to companies that stipulate their supplies must be GM free.

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

'Lost control'

Agriculture minister Joyce Quin said the GM material had formed about one per cent of the Advanta seeds.

It is believed the crop may have been planted on 9,000 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".

Mr Bebb is calling for an inquiry into the government's handling of the situation.

"They only released the news yesterday after the story started breaking in Sweden and I think we need a full inquiry to say what is actually happening here," he said.

What is scandalous is the government has sat on this for a month

Friends of the Earth's Adrian Bebb

"It seems the government is losing control."

Dr Roger Turner is chairman of the Scimac group, which represents GM companies appointed by the government to find sites where the crops can be tested out. He said he was not worried about the contamination.

"There aren't going to be the damaging effects which the word contamination implies, that's the whole issue here," he told the Today programme.

"There amount there is very, very small and we are going to work with the government to develop a code of practice to prevent this thing happening in the future."

On Wednesday, Prince Charles added to the general GM debate. In the Reith Lecture broadcast on BBC Radio 4, the prince said that tampering with nature could cause great harm to the world.

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See also:

17 May 00 | UK
Alert over GM seeds
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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