British GM crops get go-ahead

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The Independent Online
GENETICALLY modified crops are to be planted in Britain after a last-ditch legal move to stop them failed, writes Marie Woolf.

The Government's scientific advisers last week ruled there was no new evidence to suggest GM crops could endanger Brit-ish wildlife. Privately, ministers had hoped they would legally be able to ban the crops in Britain, thereby stopping the cultivation of GM oilseed rape, already approved. An unsupported ban would have left ministers open to being sued under world trade rules.

Last week, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which licenses GM crop-planting, considered a report by Alan Gray, of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, which reviews the effects of growing GM oilseed rape. The report revealed new evidence of hybridisation - crops with mixed genes - but the advisers did not think this was sufficient to stop the crops being grown.

The move has infuriated consumer and environmental groups, which say that the Government is embarking on a risky experiment unwanted by the public. "Most people don't want GM crops in Britain, but we have a regulatory regime which does not [allow] ministers to reflect the public interest," said Tony Juniper, campaigns director of Friends of the Earth.

The Government recently introduced a moratorium on growing GM crops after a consumer outcry. Farmers are likely to be restricted to growing about 100 acres per farm.