Radical groups fear escape of pollen

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The Independent Online

The field at Lyng in Norfolk attacked by Greenpeace was part of the Government's four-year programme of farm-scale trials of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The field at Lyng in Norfolk attacked by Greenpeace was part of the Government's four-year programme of farm-scale trials of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The programme is not concerned with the human health and safety aspects of the crops themselves - that has already been tested - but with the possible effects on local wildlife of the powerful new weedkillers that the crops have been genetically engineered to tolerate.

It is feared that spraying could kill off all other insect, plant and bird life in the field, leaving only the crops behind as "green concrete". Repeated on a large scale, that would devas-tate wildlife over large areas of the countryside already hard hit by the intensification of farming.

The Environment minister Michael Meacher has managed to persuade the main GM companies to put off commercial growing until the results of the trials are received in 2003. If they are unfavourable, it is possible that GM crops may never be grown commercially in Britain, Mr Meacher has said. The trials are supported by English Nature, the Government's wildlife advisers, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

But other more radical groups, with Greenpeace in the lead, feel that the trials present simply too great a risk of large amounts of GM pollen escaping into the environment, and have consistently called for them to be cancelled. At Lyng, Greenpeace went further and took direct action.

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