`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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Food Production / Operations Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a large and well ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is requir...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas