Farmer kills GM crops after threats

BRITAIN'S FIRST farm-scale trial of genetically modified crops was destroyed by the farmer, Captain Fred Barker, after a threat from the Soil Association, the organic food and farming lobbying group.

The group, whose patron is Prince Charles, said they would blacklist organic produce from Lushill Farm at Hannington, Wiltshire for five years unless Capt Barker destroyed the official Government trial.

The ban would have cost Capt Barker at least pounds 50,000 in lost sales, so the weedkiller Paraquat was sprayed on the trial site, one of seven in Britain intended to determine whether GM crops cause environmental damage when grown on a commercial scale.

Yesterday the Government and the biotechnology industry insisted the other six farmers in the trial are determined to carry through with their GM trials, and more GM crops are planned for winter planting.Those against GM crops are pushing for a five-year moratorium on planting, and the biotech industry is relentlessly following the Government's rules hoping to win approval for commercial-scale growing.

The ultimatum that led to the GM trial's destruction was delivered on 21 April. The Association director Patrick Holden told Capt Barker and John Messer, the farm manager, that the GM crops they were growing - 25 acres of herbicide-resistant oilseed rape developed by the giant German agrochemicals company AgrEvo - would cause "genetic pollution" of the 250 acres of "organically certified" crops on the 1,100-acre farm. Unless the plants were destroyed by 10 June, the farm could not produce "organically certified" food for at least five years.

Yet in March an Association official had personally assured Capt Barker there was no rule against growing both types of crop on the same farm. The new rule was introduced in April by Mr Holden, one of Prince Charles's advisors on GM issues, when he heard about Lushill's GM trial.

Yesterday AgrEvo angrily denounced the Association for "moving the goal posts" and said the new rule, which specifies that organic farmers may not plant GM crops within six miles of organic crops, were "not based on science".

The Lushill crop was planted nine weeks ago and had not flowered. The farm's owners, three trustees - a lawyer, a businessman and a director of a public company - refusedpounds 10,000 the Association offered as compensation.

Capt Barker said: "With great regret I have had to abort my GM trial. I believe very strongly in technology and the bio-tech industry and all the work that has been put into these trials. But the trustees of my family settlement have different views and have all along not been in favour, but recent events have made them come out against this GM trial."

Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, said he was "sorry and disappointed", and trials were essential to find whether GM crops would harm wildlife and the environment.

Opponents of GM were jubilant. "We are pleased because it is one less plot out there that is threatening to pollute other crops, including organic plots," said Mr Holden.

Doug Parr, of the pressure group Greenpeace, said: "This shows the Government needs to make a choice between organic and genetically modified agriculture." The Association has demanded at least six miles' separation of GM crops, on the basis that bees can carry pollen up to three miles.

It is now examining how close organic farms are to the 147 sites around Britain where GM crops are still being grown.

About 100 square yards of GM oilseed rape plants were ripped up at an experimental site at Tillycorthie Farm, near Ellon, north of Aberdeen on Sunday night. Police are investigating the incident.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine