Soggy spring is scuppering GM crop trials

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The Independent Online

THE freak spring weather is putting government genetically modified crop trials at risk.

More than 50 British farmers have signed up for the projects, but the BBC's Countryfile programme found that the majority had failed to plant their crops because of the recent heavy rain across the country.

Unless the weather improves soon, most will miss the time for spring planting - an essential part of the official farm-scale trials to determine whether GM crops are safe.

Bob Fiddaman, who farms in Hertfordshire, was due to plant 25 acres of GM oil seed rape, but his fields are sodden. Bad weather has disrupted the planting of other GM crops such as sugar beet and forage maize.

The Government has put a three-year hold on commercial planting until the current trials have been completed. Mr Fiddaman said: "There's a real danger British agriculture will fall behind the rest of the world. If they have these technologies and can produce cheaper food, we'll not be able to compete."

But local activists are celebrating the delays. "God bless the rain," said Martin Humprey. "These field trials are polluting the environment."