GM research collapses in UK as last big firm quits

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Research into genetically modified crops in Britain is set to collapse, following the withdrawal of the last major biotech company, pro-GM scientists, the industry and environmentalists have all told The Independent on Sunday.

Research into genetically modified crops in Britain is set to collapse, following the withdrawal of the last major biotech company, pro-GM scientists, the industry and environmentalists have all told The Independent on Sunday.

Last week Syngenta, the only big firm still working on genetically modified agriculture in the UK, announced it was moving all its operations to the United States.

The Anglo-Swiss company will stop all GM research at its site in Berkshire and move it to North Carolina, with a loss of 130 jobs.

Yesterday leaders of both sides of the debate predicted that the development of GM crops in Britain was doomed for the foreseeable future. They said university research is increasingly financed by businesses, and doubted the Government would continue to plough public money into research that had no application in Britain.

Professor Anthony Trewavas, the Professor of Plant Biochemistry at Edinburgh University, told The Independent on Sunday: "This is a sad retreat. Work in universities will probably cease as well."

He said it would have "long-term" effects because "once teams are dispersed it takes a long time to get things back together again".

Professor Michael Wilson, Professor of Plant Biology at Warwick University and a member of the government-appointed GM science panel, said: "I am afraid that the Luddites have effectively won." He blamed the media and "ego-tripping and propagandising" environmentalists.

The GM industry's Agriculture and Biotechnology Council said research in the UK was becoming more difficult because of a lack of government support.

But Lord Melchett, Policy Director of the Soil Association, said that the technology had been rejected because of "deep public unease".

Pete Riley, of the Five Year Freeze, an anti-GM pressure group, said: "If you produce things that people do not want to buy you cannot expect to stay in business long." He urged the Government to provide more finance to university researchers so that they were less dependent on commercial funding.

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