Two farmers pull out of GM trials after six days

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The Independent Online

Two of the 31 farmers the Government announced last week had joined genetically modified crop trials have backed out only six days after the Government unveiled the scheme.

The Supply Chain Initiative On Modified Agricultural Crops (Scimac), the industry body organising the trials, last night confirmed two farmers had withdrawn and added that the two had not signed contracts to grow the GM crops.

Andrew Roughton, of Friskney Tofts, Lincolnshire, was said to have pulled out because of opposition from local producers and other agricultural businesses. Carl Clayton, a farmer in Ulleskelf, North Yorkshire, also withdrew.

Mrs Roughton said last night: "There has never been a signed contract between us and anyone else." The Government announced last week that 31 farmers had agreed to provide 25-acre sites to test GM variants of oilseed rape, sugar beet and various other crops.

Andy Tait, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said that Mr Roughton had faced a barrage of local opposition. "The opposition was from local farmers and businesses. Even agricultural machinery suppliers said that they didn't want to supply to the farm anymore because they didn't want their machines contaminated," he said.

Mr Clayton refused to expand on his reasons for withdrawing from the scheme but confirmed: "The trial has been abandoned."

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office, which handles press enquires concerning GM crops, said that six additional farmers had signed contracts to run the trials on their farms.

Neither Scimac nor the Cabinet Office knew the total number of farmers now under contract. A Scimac spokesman said: "We always knew some [farmers] would drop out and we are confident of meeting our targets."