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The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"Those opposed to the trials say they have already lost scientific credibility"
 real 56k

Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
New GM trial sites
Oilseed rape
Twenty-five new sites will be used for GM crop trials
Four more sites in Scotland have been earmarked for the next round of GM field trials.

They are among 25 being announced by the government, amid criticism from environmental campaigners and some MPs.

The list includes two sites at Daviot in Aberdeenshire, where trials are already going ahead, one at Rothienorman in Aberdeenshire and the fourth at Munlochy on the Black Isle.

The trials are part of the government's three-year programme to test the effect of GM crops.

But the announcement - due to be made by the Department of the Environment at 1400 BST on Thursday - comes amid growing concerns over the risk of contamination from trial sites.

A cross-party committee of MPs has criticised the government's handling of recent GM contamination of conventional seeds, calling for urgent action to restore confidence among farmers and the public.

Campaigners' crusades

Environmentalists have repeatedly targeted farms where the trials are being carried out, damaging the crops, while some farmers have dropped out of the experiments.

Those opposed to the trials say that so many trial sites have been destroyed, the experiment lacks scientific validity.

Liana Stupples, from environmental group Friends of the Earth accused the government of "flogging a dead horse" by continuing with the trials.

Campaigners break into a field of GM crops
Campaigners have targeted GM trial sites
But Professor Chris Pollock, of the scientific steering committee overseeing the trials, said that while protest action had hindered "the organisation and execution of the experiments", future trials would still go ahead.

The Commons Agriculture Select Committee of MPs is expected to call for immediate measures to be taken to allow farmers to plant their crops in total confidence.

These include a quick decision on separation distances.

Controversy flared in April after it emerged that conventional rape seed imported from Canada had been contaminated by GM crops which had been planted over 4km away.

Compensation package

In Britain, the current rule allows trials to be conducted just 200m from neighbouring fields.

In June it was decided that those farmers, in Scotland and other parts of the UK, who unknowingly planted the contaminated seeds would benefit from a 1.2m compensation package.

The government's winter crops of oilseed rape, designed to test the effect of GM crops on wildlife, is due to be planted next month.

Six of the chosen sites are in Lincolnshire.

Lincolnshire farmer Ronald Duguid, whose farm is participating in the trials, said: "I certainly think it is worth proceeding. The rest of the world seems to be proceeding quite happily with it and getting good results."

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See also:

20 Jul 00 | Scotland
New GM trial proposed
20 Jun 00 | Scotland
Flaw discovered in GM crop trial
16 Jul 00 | UK
GM protestors invade field
09 Jun 00 | Scotland
'No harm' from GM crops
30 May 00 | UK
NFU may sue over GM blunder
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
GM trials: The long hot summer
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