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The BBC's Tom Feilden
Scientists will visit the sites to sample soils and insect populations
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Friday, 17 March, 2000, 14:22 GMT
Aberdeen GM crops trial
GM trials have proved extremely controversial
A farm in Aberdeenshire has been selected to participate in the UK-wide scientific programme of farm-scale evaluations of genetically modified crops.

The farm, near Inverurie, will grow a crop of genetically modified spring oilseed rape alongside a comparable field of conventional rape.

It is one of 60 sites announced by the UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher.

We need to be satisfied that growing these crops will have no unacceptable effects on the environment.

Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie
The trials are to allow scientists to assess the environmental impact which growing a GM crop may have when compared with more traditional farming practice.

The Inverurie farm is likely to be the first of a number of Scottish sites to be selected for inclusion in the programme.

Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie said the Scottish Executive was neither for or against GM crops.

He said: "Our priorities are consumers, public health and the environment. We also recognise that GM crops could have great potential.

Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie: "GM could have potential"
"We need sound information on which to assess the impact of GM crops. That is the purpose of these trials."

Mr Finnie added that: "Until these evaluations have been completed over a three-year period, there will be no commercial growing of GM crops in this country.

"We need to be satisfied that growing these crops will have no unacceptable effects on the environment."

Greenpeace's executive director Peter Melchett said the move was "a potential tragedy for the environment".

'Genetic tyranny'

He said: "Britain will be bombarded with GM pollen with no regard for wildlife, the public or GM-free farmers.

"The whole process has been nothing short of genetic tyranny with an almost complete absence of public consultation."

Scottish National Party rural affairs spokesman Alasdair Morgan said: "A field trial of GM Oil Seed Rape is premature and the SNP believes such trials should be put on hold until such times as we are fully aware of all the possible consequences.

Alasdair Morgan
Alasdair Morgan: "Lack of solid information"
"Aside from the lack of solid information on the environmental impact of GM crops there is the issue of the exclusion zone around the trial field.

"Insects can transport pollen from crops across a much further area than the official exclusion zones cover.

"Until more research has been done the public are sure to view trials of GM crops as ill-advised."

About 60 farmers have volunteered land as test sites for GM crops, but they will be running a risk.

Seven trials carried out in 1999 proved extremely controversial - two being destroyed by protesters and one by the farmer himself.

Some environmentalists believe that a number of issues surrounding GM crops - such as the risk of cross-pollination of neighbouring crops and contamination of honey - have not been resolved.

Those who object to the tests have vowed to keep up the pressure during the current run of trials.

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See also:

10 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
'Sites found' for GM farm trials
11 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
GM crop trials leap in size
15 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Farmers urged to abandon GM trials
17 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Wildlife adviser backs GM trials
27 Aug 99 | UK Politics
GM trials go ahead
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
GM trial sites unveiled
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