'Secret test' threat to GM crop trials

A A A

Britain's embattled GM crop trials were plunged into fresh controversy yesterday when officials admitted keeping a crucial test secret.

Britain's embattled GM crop trials were plunged into fresh controversy yesterday when officials admitted keeping a crucial test secret.

The secrecy, which contradicts repeated government assurances that the trials would be open, is bound to spark a furious row as an unprecedented official public hearing into GM crops opens tomorrow.

It will also cast doubt over the granting of formal approval for a new GM maize to be sown in Britain.

Environmentalists are planning to turn the hearing - over whether the maize, produced by the GM company Aventis, can be placed on the official National Seed List - into the biggest public examination yet into GM crops. By entering 67 objections to the listing of the maize - the first of a series of GM seeds due to seek approval - they have forced the Government to hold the hearing, which is expected to last 10 weeks, under the little-used 1982 Seed Regulations.

The secrecy row is a new set-back for the Government and the GM industry after the acquittal, 10 days ago, of Lord Melchett and 27 other Greenpeace protesters, who destroyed a GM crop in Norfolk.

The row centres on a GM trial site at Dartington, in Devon, which became a cause célÿbre two years ago after a farmer claimed it could contaminate his organic crops.

After the farmer unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court to stop the trial, the field was invaded by local protesters who uprooted the plants.

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany, which was carrying out the trials, had agreed to supply information about it to the Farm Association, one of its main opponents. But after the invasion, its director, John MacLeod, wrote to the association to say he could no longer provide the information because of "the total destruction of that trial".

But last week, the association found that information gathered from the trial site two months after they thought the crops had been totally destroyed, is to be used as crucial evidence to justify placing the new GM maize on the National Seed List. It suspected that the results might have been "fabricated".

But yesterday the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) said there had been a second GM crop on the site which had not been destroyed. It said the letter to the Soil Association had been carefully worded because the institute had not wanted to "volunteer information that could have caused another crop to have been destroyed". Last night, Harry Hadaway of the Soil Association said: "Ministers have repeatedly assured us that there would be no secrecy over the trial programme.

"We are shocked that Maff appears to have sanctioned concealing this trial which could have contaminated organic crops and the surrounding environment. The concerns of the local community were obviously completely disregarded. How many more sites have been hidden?"

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'