Letter: GM hysteria

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Government is rightly concerned about the environmental impacts of herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (HT GM) crops and has set up farm- scale trials to assess these impacts. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds supports this research.

However, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Robert May, has agreed with the RSPB that he does "not see how ministers could contemplate giving permission for commercial release of the GM crops covered by this research until January 2003 at the earliest" (report, 20 May).

Ministers have stated that there is no rift between them and Sir Robert. So can we then take it that the only planting of HT GM oil seed rape or HT GM maize before December 2002 will be for research purposes? If so, then we have de facto the commercial moratorium for which environmental groups have been calling. If not, then the Government is still floundering in uncertainty and is ignoring the advice of its Chief Scientific Adviser and its own conservation agency, English Nature.


Director of Conservation

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Sandy, Bedfordshire