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2000: GM blunder leaves farmers in uproar

Scottish farmers who accidentally planted genetically modified seeds have said they will fight for compensation after the UK Government advised them to dig up the crop.

It is believed thousands of hectares of land in Scotland have been sown with the GM contaminated oil seed rape.

The product came from Canada and about 500 farmers across the UK are thought to have used it.


"Farmers are innocent victims in this episode"

National Union of Farmers statement

Although the Ministry of Agriculture in London says the seed is safe, farmers are now being strongly urged to destroy their crops.

The government has advised farmers to take legal action against the seeds suppliers Advanta Seeds UK.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland will meet the Scottish Agriculture Minister Ross Finnie next week to discuss how they can recoup their losses.

In a statement the union said: "Farmers are innocent victims in this episode.

"We will be pushing for full compensation for all farmers who inadvertently planted these crops. If MAFF had informed the Scottish Executive about the problem earlier, then much of the affected seed need not have been sown and Scottish farmers would not be in this situation."

The row erupted after Advanta disclosed that some of its conventional rape-seed "sold and sown" in the UK during the past two years was actually GM contaminated.

Under EU rules, the GM crops produced from the seed cannot be marketed within Europe itself.

The NFU estimates that the contamination incident could leave its UK members up to 3m worse off.

Advanta believes its rape seed was contaminated by pollen from a GM crop in a neighbouring field in Canada in 1998.

The government was first told on 17 April about the mistake, but did not make it public until a month later.

In Context
In July 2000, the National Farmers' Union of Scotland accepted a 1.3m compensation deal offered by Advanta for around 400 Scottish farmers affected by the GM seeds blunder.

In August, the government revealed trials of genetically modified crops were being carried out on oil seed rape in both England and Scotland despite opposition by environmentalists.

The Scottish Parliament's health committee is to publish a report on the effect on humans of GM crop trials in December 2002.

The decision follows serious concerns over the toxic effect of the trials, possible allergies and their effect on antibiotic resistance.

The three-year programme of GM crop trials in Scotland due to end in 2003 provoked demonstrations, petitions and the destruction of fields by environmentalists.


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