GM crop trials 'should be secret'
2008 07 29

By Pallab Ghosh | news.bbc.co.uk

Senior researchers have called for the location of small open-air trials of GM crops to be kept secret.

The researchers say that vandalism of GM crop trials is holding back research in the area.

Current legislation requires the exact location of GM crop trials to be publicly available.

But according to those engaged in active research, that information is invariably used by anti-GM protesters to disrupt experiments.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which licenses open air trials commented: "EU legislation says that we must disclose GM trial locations to the public.

"We are awating a European Court of Justice ruling, likely later this year, on a French legal case that should clarify how the EU law in this area can be interpreted by Member States."

Professor Howard Atkinson began a trial of GM potatoes earlier this year which he hoped would be resistant to disease.

The crops were pulled up three weeks after they were planted. Professor Atkinson is due to meet with the environment minister Phil Woolas in early September and will ask him to consider making changes to the current legislation.

"We should follow the same approach as that followed in Canada for very small scale trials of say 400 plants or so - where the risks are looked at by a panel but the location of those sites is not revealed," Professor Atkinson explained.

"The other possibility is to identify some national testing centre or centres where such trials could be run securely without the risk of zealots destroying them".

Security issues

Professor Atkinson said that open air trials were necessary to develop crops that could not only help farmers in the UK - but also help increase food production in Africa.

The disruption of trials, he said, has already led to companies moving away from the UK and academic research in the area has begun to decline.

"Academically, there has been a reduction in the attempt to do work of this type - they've found other problems to look at - but these are not generating practical benefits immediately and certainly not facing up to the big issue of food security in Africa," he said.

"As far as companies are concerned, they can do this sort of work elsewhere"

Jim Dunwell of Reading University and a member of ACRE, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, said there had been a sharp drop in the number of GM crop trials in Britain over the last few years with just one application for this year, down from about 20 to 30 per year in the late 1990s.

Local communities
Wayne Powell, who is the director of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, was engaged in a trial of a crop that had the potential to benefit banana growers in Uganda. It was disrupted by protesters last year.

As a result, he said: "We now have 24-hour security, we have fences around materials."

However, anti-GM campaigners, such as Claire Oxborough of Friends of the Earth, believe that the trials should be stopped altogether.

She commented: "Friends of the Earth would have deep concerns about making them secret because of the potential risks that they pose.

"They are at the very early stages of development - we don't know the impact they'll have on the environment and on health and very often these trials are not set up to look at that."

She added: "What you don't want to do is get into a situation where in rural communities you have an air of distrust - rumours, speculation going on because no one knows what their neighbours might be growing.

"We need transparency - we need to know where these field trials are taking place so that farmers and the public can be adequately protected."

Article from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7529590.stm



Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

CIA torture is reason for France to exit NATO – Le Pen
2014-12-17 20:20
The shocking revelations of CIA torture techniques give France a reason to exit NATO, National Front party leader Marine Le Pen said on Saturday. The report on the CIA’s former interrogation practices has drawn wide criticism since its release. “If indeed everyone is outraged by the tortures used by the US then, let’s leave NATO,” Le Pen said during an interview ...
900 Documented Examples of Obama's Lawbreaking, Lying, Corruption, Cronyism, Hypocrisy & Waste
2014-12-17 20:00
By Tim Brown from sonsoflibertymedia.com: Our friend, Dan from Squirrel Hill, has updated his list to 900 documented examples of Barack Obama¡¯s lying, lawbreaking, corruption, cronyism, etc. He began with 252 examples, then quickly grew to 504 and later to 694. Recently, he added more than 200 more examples of the usurper-in-chief¡¯s unlawful acts. Every President, every politician, and every human ...
A Step Closer to the Mysterious Origin of the Viking Sword Ulfberht
2014 12 16
The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In "Beyond Science" Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide. Ulfberht was like a Medieval luxury brand for swords—but unlike your Gucci purse, the swords were of such high quality they were almost ...
Israel proposes natural gas pipeline to Southern Europe
2014-12-16 12:39
Israel is pushing for the European Union (EU) to approve the construction of a pipeline running from the Middle Eastern country to supply Cyprus, Greece and Italy with natural gas. The proposed EastMed pipeline will carry gas from the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields located in the Mediterranean Sea, to Southern Europe. As the Times of Israel reported in an ...
As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up
2014 12 16
A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published. Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there ...
More News »