Company threatens to sue over pesticides disclosure

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A chemicals company is threatening legal action against the Government to prevent ministers disclosing details of pesticides being used in controversial GM crop trials.

Aventis CropScience said it wanted to prevent competitors gaining access to information on glufosinate ammonium, a product being used as part of the farm-scale trials.

But environmentalists fear the chemical may spread into groundwater. Friends of the Earth has been asking for data on the pesticide from the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – now the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – after it was approved for use during the winter.

Peter Roderick, legal adviser to Friends of the Earth, said: "This shows the lengths that the biotech industry will go to keep its activities from public scrutiny. If Aventis has got scientific evidence on the safety of this pesticide, why won't they let us see it?

"The Government must stand firm in defending Aventis's challenge."

In a statement, the Franco-German company said it had already provided data required by the Pesticide Safety Directorate, but was "concerned about the prospect of competitors having access to data".

The company said: "It is understandable that all affected companies should wish to retain their commercial intellectual property... until such time as the law has been clarified."

A Whitehall spokesman said the department was convinced that it had discretion to release information about the use of pesticides and believed its stance would be backed by the courts.