Rape ban for GM farmers (30/7/2003)

Rape ban for GM farmers
FWi 29 July 2003
By Farmers Weekly Staff

BRITISH farmers involved in field scale trials of genetically-modified oilseed rape will not be able to plant rape in the same fields this autumn.

Contamination fears triggered the move after preliminary studies into volunteers showed rape seeds persist for longer than had previously been thought.

The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which recommended the measure, stressed there were no environmental or human health concerns.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley said the precautions were being taken to protect the commercial interests of the farmers involved.

"There is concern that seeds remaining in the ground from the GM trial will germinate and that the harvested crop might exceed the new EU thresholds on GM-free crops," he said.

The research showed conventional rape could be up to 5% contaminated with GM seed, ten times the new EU limits.

"Clearly, the farmers involved in the FSEs must not be disadvantaged," said Mr Morley.

The Scottish Executive has given similar advice to those involved in the trials north of the border.

It covers any grower who has been involved at any stage in the three-year GM trial programme.

This includes those who would have planted conventional rape this autumn as part of their normal crop rotation policy.

The government has not yet stipulated how many years should elapse between a GM and conventional rape crop, although an EU scientific committee has suggested a minimum of five years.

Friends of the Earth reacted angrily to the new findings and renewed calls for a ban on commercial planting of GM crops in the UK.

"Fields where GM oilseed rape has been grown are so heavily contaminated that farmers won't be able to grow conventional oil seed rape in them for years to come," warned FoE campaigner Pete Riley.

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