GM crop trials are 'deeply disturbing'

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Environmentalists yesterday criticised "secret" genetically modified crop trials being run across England.

Environmentalists yesterday criticised "secret" genetically modified crop trials being run across England.

Friends of the Earth said the trials of GM maize, sugar beet and oilseed rape on tennis court-sized patches of land were "arrogant, secretive and contemptuous".

The small-scale trials had been announced in a parliamentary answer but not widely publicised, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

They were approved by the Minister of Agriculture, Nick Brown, and are being carried out by the National Institute for Agricultural Botany on sites in Oxfordshire, Somerset, North Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and Shropshire.

The ministry said details of the parishes where trials were located would be made available to the public on request, but no list of the sites had yet been drawn up. Only one, Rowton in Shropshire, could be identified. The trials have been under way for more than a year, in parallel with 25 separate farm-scale trials, which haveattracted protests and cropdestruction raids by environmentalists.

Adrian Bebb, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said: "This news is outrageous and deeply disturbing. These crops threaten organic and conventional crops through crosspollination. Now farmers don't know where that threat is coming from and if bee farmers don't know where GM crops are being grown, they won't be able to move their hives to prevent honey being contaminated.

"This is typical behaviour from the biotech industry - arrogant, secretive and contemptuous of public opinion."

However, the ministry said the trials were on "very small sites" and were being "very closely observed".

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