GM crop trial will stay despite error

THE GOVERNMENT refused yesterday to stop the first field-scale trial of genetically modified (GM) crops, although the planting broke its own rules for notification.

Seeds planted over the Easter weekend at Lushill Farm in Hannington, near Swindon, Wiltshire, will be allowed to grow, despite people in the area not being informed by a notice in their local paper that the trial would be made.

Under the rules of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), any company intending to grow GM organisms outdoors must place a notice in a paper serving the local area.

On the Today programme yesterday Michael Meacher, the Environment minister, insisted that the Gloucestershire Echo - where an advert about the planned planting appeared on March 9 - did cover the area. But the Echo insisted its 26,000 circulation stopped at Cirencester, about 15 miles northwest of Hannington.

Although that means AgrEvo, which provided the seeds, is clearly in breach of the Government's rules, and Mr Meacher was at best misinformed, a spokesman insisted the trial will go ahead in spite of any objections. "DETR wants these trials to go ahead," he said. "They are the first on this scale which have been done, and it is very important that we get this information."

Friends of the Earth has written to Mr Meacher, calling on him to order the 25-acre crop of spring variety oilseed rape to be ploughed up. Pete Riley, Friends of the Earth food campaigner, said: "The Government must take decisive action and stop these farm-scale trials until the correct procedures have been followed."

Four such trials are expected, to assess the environmental impact of growing GM herbicide-resistant rape and maize. Another trial will begin near Shirburn, Oxfordshire, later this month.

Desmond D'Souza, biotechnology director at AgrEvo, said his company acted in good faith when it advertised in the Echo, and the company was re- advertising in the Swindon Evening Advertiser in the interests of "openness and transparency". The first adverts appeared yesterday.

"We do not accept that we have breached the laws," he added. "We advertised in good faith in what we believed to be the right paper. The laws state that we must advertise in a local paper within 10 days of consent being applied for from the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions to go ahead. We did this. We do not accept that we advertised in the wrong publication.

"We will not be harvesting until some time after July. The public still have every opportunity to register objections."

The DETR wants to institute field-scale trials of GM crops as a means of slowing their commercial introduction, thus appeasing pressure groups, while providing a path to their wider use, thus satisfying the companies.

The Cooperative Wholesale Society, the UK's largest farming organisation, has refused to take part in trials.

Thousands of people are expected to march in London today to call on the Government to ban GM food. The protest, organised by GMO Campaign, starts in Hyde Park at 1.30pm and ends at Trafalgar Square.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent