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EDITIONS
 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 13:13 GMT
GM report 'was not buried'
Greenpeace environmental protesters attack a field of genetically modified crops at Lyng, near Norwich, Norfolk
Protesters have ripped up some GM crop trials
The UK Government has denied trying to bury a report into genetically modified crop cross-contamination.

The study, released on Christmas Eve, found evidence of GM crops contaminating plants in neighbouring fields.

It is another case of cock-up rather than conspiracy

Michael Meacher
Anti-GM campaigners have seized on the report, claiming it proves there is no commercial future for bio-engineered foods in the UK.

Environment minister Michael Meacher told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had not known the report - a summary of which was published on the website of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - would be released on Christmas Eve.

"We weren't trying to bury it," he said. "I entirely agree that the Christmas Eve timing was unfortunate...

"I can assure you there is no wish to conceal. It is another case of cock-up rather than conspiracy."

'Not new'

The research found that the weed wild turnip was affected by gene flow when planted next to GM oilseed rape, prompting fears that it could become resistant to herbicides.

Current isolation requirements for GM crops could be reviewed following the publication of the results.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth has warned the report highlights the potential threat of "super weeds" in the British countryside.

Mr Meacher denied the study, which goes back to 1994 and was finished in 2000, revealed any new information.

"The fact is this information has been known since the early 1990s," he said.

"These findings are not new; they simply confirm what was already known."

Mr Meacher said cross-contamination could not be eliminated but could only be minimised and kept below an acceptable level.

Further research on cross-contamination will be revealed by the Farm Scale Evaluations, commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and carried out by independent researchers.

The final results of the studies will be published in early 2004.

The government has also undertaken a major review of GM foods in an effort to understand the cost involved in producing them and public reaction to them, as well as scientific research into the possible risks involved.

See also:

29 Nov 02 | Politics
16 Oct 02 | Business
26 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
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