April showers wash out GM trials

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The Independent Online

Heavy spring rain is putting government GM crop trials at risk, researchers claimed today.

Heavy spring rain is putting government GM crop trials at risk, researchers claimed today.

More than 50 British farmers are preparing to carry out the tests, but BBC1 programme Countryfile found that most had failed to plant their crops because of recent heavy rains.

Unless the weather improves quickly, most of the farmers will miss the window for spring planting and risk delaying the experiments.

Spring planting is an essential part of the Government's farm scale trials to determine whether GM crops are safe.

Bob Fiddaman, who farms near Hemel Hempstead, Herts, was due to drill 25 acres of genetically modified oil seed rape, but his fields are sodden.

"Ideally the seed should have gone in two weeks ago," he said. He has another two weeks to get the crop in, "otherwise I'd be planting it for the sake of it".

The recent bad weather has disrupted the planting of other GM crops like sugar beet and forage maize.

The Government has put a three-year hold on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops until the current trials have been completed.

Even a partial postponement of this summer's trials could cause an extra delay in any possible licensing of GM crops in Britain.

Other countries are less cautious. In America and China, hundreds of millions of acres are being planted with GM wheat and soya for human consumption.

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