`Impartial' GM trials chief in favour of modified crops

THE MAN responsible for overseeing the Government's trials of GM crops - chosen by ministers for his impartial scientific advice - believes it is in "society's long-term interest" to grow genetically engineered crops.

Professor Christopher Pollock, who is influential in deciding whether GM crops will be licensed to be grown commercially in the UK, is in favour of genetic engineering because "the benefits outweigh the risks". He believes that "it is in society's long-term interest to accept the benefit of genetic manipulation".

Professor Pollock's comments in an interview with a farming journal are likely to provoke further protest from environmentalists and cast doubt on the objectivity of the assessment of the GM trials.

This week a new series of GM crop trials will be announced by the Government. Fields of oilseed rape will be planted in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Earlier trials sparked anger and some protest action from environmental and consumer groups who fear the GM pollen could pose a threat to nearby farms, particularly those growing organic crops.

Professor Pollock, who was vetted by government officials before being offered the post, criticised the views of anti-GM campaigners saying: "Consider how much damage has been done by introducing foreign species such as rhododendrons."

The chairman of the Government's steering group also said in the interview with The Farmer that Britain needed to "remain competitive with countries like the US and Canada [which] are already growing genetically modified crops on a big scale".

The professor heads the steering group responsible for overseeing the progress of the controversial GM trials and for interpreting whether the technology could damage Britain's wildlife and environment. The trial results will determine whether the Government allows biotechnology companies such as Monsanto to grow their crops in Britain.

Ministers wanted experts on the influential steering group to be unbiased to reassure the public that the trials are not a "whitewash" for agro- chemical companies. Earlier this year members of another advisory panel were replaced after it was revealed that some members had links with such companies.

"Appointing someone who is clearly committed intellectually to genetic engineering food, to such an influential position severely undermines the credibility of these farm-scale trials and the impartiality of advice the Government will receive," said Pete Riley, of environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth.

Professor Pollock, Research Director at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Re- search in Aberystwyth, said that he favoured "an open dialogue between consumers and food producers" about genetic engineering and that "there should be an independent body of scientists set up to control the development of GM crops in Europe." He added: "Scientists can never really say that anything is 100 per cent safe but I find it difficult to see problems with making use of, for example, a plant gene to improve the quality of grass for consumption by cows or sheep. It is using natural DNA in a natural system," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash