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Environment correspondent Louise Batchelor
"Many Scottish farmers believe they cannot afford to turn their backs on GM crops"
 real 28k

Louise Batchelor reports
"It's only weeks until the government announces the spring round of GM crop trials"
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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 13:56 GMT
GM crops warning to Scots farmers

GM crop GM crops are still the focus of controversy

A group of farmers from the USA has travelled to Scotland to warn their counterparts about what they see as the dangers of GM crops.

The American farmers claim the market for foods with GM ingredients is collapsing and that it does not make financial sense for farmers to get involved.

At a meeting in Dundee on Monday evening - on a platform shared with the Scottish National Farmers Union - the visiting agriculturists will also warn of what they see as the environmental dangers of GM crops.

the farmers who have got involved in GM have had a very tough time selling it
US farmer Jim Goodwin
The farmers are from the National Family Farm Coalition and the American Corn Growers Association. Their trip has been partially sponsored by Greenpeace.

However, the National Corn Growers Association of America, which has a much bigger membership, says the GM market remains large at present.

And the Scottish NFU is keen to keep all its options open, in case its members lose any competitive advantage.

Corky Jones has grown GM Soya on his family's farm in Nebraska for the past two years - he says he was not aware it was modified until the backlash against GM started in Europe.

'Expensive seeds'

"Now we are hearing, 'well maybe there is a problem'," said Mr Jones.

"As farmers we look into it because we are environmentalist - all three of my sons and our families.

"Because we live on the land we don't want to contaminate the soil, we do not want to contaminate the water, we don't want to contaminate our equipment bins or storage facilities or anything else but they have done no research at all to say it's perfectly safe."

GM protest Anti-GM feeling runs high
Mr Jones says he does not believe GM crops are worthwhile financially for farmers.

He says that while they require fewer chemicals the seeds are more expensive and there is the possibility farmers can be prosecuted for trying to save seeds from a previous crop.

Mr Jones says he is also concerned by the difficulty of returning to traditional crops because many seed producers have been bought out by biotech firms.

Jim Goodwin, an organic farmer from Wisconsin, will also advise Scottish farmers not to follow the GM route.

'Potential benefits'

"My message would be to look and see what has happened in America and the farmers who have got involved in GM have had a very tough time selling it," he said.

"Due to the fact that the EU has closed off the market there is a big surplus and prices have dropped to the lowest we have seen in decades."

However, the Scottish NFU's Peter Chapman said the organisation does not see the need to turn its back on GM at this stage.

"We believe that the research must go on, there is obviously a great debate about GM foods, about GM crops but we do not think we can afford to turn our backs on the potential that may be there within them," said Mr Chapman.

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See also:
01 Feb 00 |  Scotland
FoE criticises organic 'risk' warning
29 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Controls agreed on GM imports
15 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
The Pusztai affair - science loses
06 Sep 99 |  Sci/Tech
Charity warns against GM seeds

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