Go-ahead given for scorpion pesticide

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The Independent Online
John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, yesterday gave scientists permission to go ahead with the release in an Oxfordshire field of a genetically-engineered pesticide 'turbo- charged' with scorpion venom, writes Susan Watts.

The proposed release, first highlighted in the Independent, brought calls from some of the country's leading scientists for a delay in which its risk to the environment could be re-assessed.

Last week, the Government's Advisory Committee on Release to the Environment (Acre) looked again at the proposal and advised the Government that the test be allowed to go ahead as planned.

The experiment, by government scientists at the Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology, is now expected to begin in the next few days.

It involves a virus with added genetic material taken from scorpions. These added genes produce a powerful nerve poison which paralyses caterpillars so they stop feeding and the lethal virus can do its work.

The experiment was first recommended by Acre on 31 March as sufficiently safe to proceed. But detailed objections raised by some scientists came in too late to be taken into account.