Farmer's legal action on genetic dangers

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The Independent Online
AN ORGANIC FARMER backed by environmentalists has launched legal action to challenge the Government over trials of genetically engineered crops.

Lawyers have started judicial review proceedings over concerns that a Ministry of Agriculture-sponsored research institute is carrying out genetic trials next to the organic farm of Guy Watson in Devon.

Mr Watson, supported by Friends of the Earth and the organic farming group the Soil Association, fears weedkiller- resistant genetically engineered maize could contaminate his organic crops.

The Soil Association has indicated Mr Watson could lose his organic certification if his produce is contaminated.

Lawyers hope that the application for a judicial review will be accepted and expedited because they claim the maize is due to pollinate in July. That would be the moment of maximum risk of cross-contamination. The legal action follows claims from the Friends of the Earth (FoE) that the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NAIB), which is carrying out the work for the Government at Dartington, does not have permission to release genetically engineered organisms into the environment.

Robin Maynard, for FoE, said the Government was allowing the experiment to take place "in flagrant disregard of its own rules". Richard Young, of the Soil Association, said: "It is totally unacceptable that genetically- engineered crops can be allowed to contaminate or impair organic farming."

Neither the NAIB nor the Ministry of Agriculture were available for comment last night.