Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Saturday, 10 May 2008 11:45 UK

GM crops to be grown on test site

Generic picture of potatoes growing in a field
The crop will be grown on a test site near Tadcaster

Genetically-modified crops are to be grown on a test field between Leeds and York by scientists trying to produce potatoes resistant to bugs.

The plan by the University of Leeds has been approved by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

About 1,200 potato plants will be grown at Headley Hall Farm near Tadcaster - but they will then be destroyed.

Green Party spokesman Leslie Rowe said there was no guarantee nearby crops would not be affected by the trial.

A Defra spokesman said the agency was satisfied that the proposed trial "would not result in any adverse effect on human health or the environment."

He said precautionary conditions had been attached to the statutory consent for the trial.

"These aim to ensure that GM potato material does not persist at the trial site.

"The harvested GM potatoes will not be used for food or animal feed."

Scientists from the university's Faculty of Biological Sciences will grow about 1,200 plants in the field over three years.

Certainly, I think there will be protests about this at the time [of planting], but it's up to local people to decide what they're going to do
Leslie Rowe, Green Party

The research will examine ways of limiting the damage that the roundworms, or cyst-nematodes, cause to potatoes.

Potato cyst-nematodes cause extensive agricultural damage by feeding on the roots of the potato, limiting the plant's growth.

The university researchers plan to introduce a gene to the potato roots which means the worm is unable to smell the plant, limiting its ability to feed on it.

A spokesman said field trials were necessary to test whether the plants would be effective in an outside environment.

But Mr Rowe said there were concerns about other nearby crop fields being affected by the trial.

"I certainly think local people will be uncertain as to the quality of the local produce because there's no guarantee that this genetically-modified crop will not affect nearby farms and produce.

"What we'd like to do as a Green Party is consult with local people and see if there's anything specific we can do.

"Certainly, I think there will be protests about this at the time [of planting], but it's up to local people to decide what they're going to do."




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