GM firms finally give up on planting in Britain

A A A

Industry has dropped its last attempts to get GM seeds approved for growing in Britain, in a final surrender of its dream to spread modified crops rapidly across the country.

Industry has dropped its last attempts to get GM seeds approved for growing in Britain, in a final surrender of its dream to spread modified crops rapidly across the country.

Bayer CropScience has withdrawn the only two remaining applications for government permission for the seeds - a winter and a spring oilseed rape, both modified to tolerate one of the firm's herbicides. Supporters of the technology say this will put back their commercial use in Britain for years. Environmentalists cite it as one more indication that they are never likely to be grown here.

The withdrawal of the applications marks a sharp contrast to the situation when The Independent on Sunday began its campaign over genetic modification nearly six years ago. At that time, 53 different GM seeds were awaiting approval, and widespread cultivation was assumed to be only a year away.

The Government had put all its weight behind the technology, aiming to make Britain its "European hub", and Tony Blair privately dismissed opposition as a "flash in the pan".

But rising public concern forced the Government to introduce a moratorium while tests were carried out on the effects on the environment of growing GM crops. The trials - the results of which were reported last year - found that the way GM beet and spring oilseed rape were cultivated damaged wildlife more than the growing of conventional crops (the results for winter oilseed rape are due to be published shortly).

The trials appeared to clear GM maize, but the IoS revealed that the verdict was invalid because a pesticide central to the clearance was about to be banned. The Government still gave approval for the maize to be grown - the only one given to a GM crop in Britain. But shortly afterwards, Bayer announced it would not proceed, saying that the controls on how the maize would be cultivated were too strict.

GM advocates presented this as a temporary setback, arguing that new varieties could be grown as early as 2006. Now, however, industry, ministers and environmentalists agree that the abandonment of the last applications means it will be the end of this decade, at the earliest , before any GM crops can be grown.

Any new application will now have to go through a long process to be approved. First, it will have to be passed by the European Union, an unlikely prospect as it has a moratorium on GM crops. Even if that hurdle were surmounted, the crop would have to go through two years of trials in Britain, and then get government approval - a process that will be fought by protesters.

Last week Bayer said it would not even try to carry out trials in Britain until the Government took strong measures to stop protesters pulling up the plants. And ministers now believe that there is no market for the crops, so they would not be grown even if approval were granted.

Yesterday, Pete Riley, director of the anti-GM campaign Five Year Freeze, said: "This development makes it even less likely that modified crops will ever be grown in Britain. The Government should now abandon its doomed obsession with GM crops and put together a coherent strategy to put the whole of UK farming on a sustainable basis."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable