|Calls for GM spud trials to be stopped after Dutch court ruling (14/3/2007)|
Calls for GM spud trials to be stopped after Dutch court ruling
Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze are today calling on the Government to suspend plans for experimental trials of GM potatoes in the UK. The call comes after a Dutch court ordered permits for trials in the Netherlands to be destroyed because the risks to the environment had not been properly assessed.
The UK trials of BASF's blight resistant potatoes are due to take place from this spring at two locations for a period of five years. One site is a research centre in Cambridge, the other is proposed for Hedon/Preston, East Riding of Yorkshire .
A Dutch court last week found that the Government had illegally permitted the experimental trials in the Netherlands of the same BASF blight resistant potatoes and ordered the permits to be destroyed . The judge found that the insufficient evidence had been put forward to show that the potatoes had been properly tested in a controlled environment (like a greenhouse) before being released in the open, and that the Dutch Ministry had been unable to conduct the required environmental risk assessment because BASF had failed to provide specific information regarding the location of the trial sites. Friends of the Earth has discovered that in the UK, BASF has also not provided the Government with the exact site locations, and can wait until a week before planting before doing so.
Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze have written to David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, calling on him to suspend the UK trials to allow his department to investigate the implications of the Dutch court decision and commission updated advice from its advisory committee, ACRE.
Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "These new environmental concerns should prompt the Government to rethink plans to allow BASF to grow its GM potatoes in the UK. The trials are unnecessary and unwanted. Blight resistant potatoes are already available through conventional breeding and there is simply no market for GM spuds in the UK. "
GM Freeze Director, Pete Riley, said:
"Mr Miliband must prevent GM potatoes being grown in Britain while he considers the Dutch court ruling that the BASF GM potatoes have not been sufficiently tested. There is clearly an urgent need to review the scientific evidence. These trials should not proceed as planned".
Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze have already raised concerns about the trials, including risks of contaminating future potato crops, absence of food safety data, lack of need and consumer rejection 
In a further development, it has been reported that BASF has abandoned its plans to trial GM potatoes in Ireland . It had delayed starting the trial after strong public opposition and tough conditions imposed by the Irish Government last year. The UK Government has imposed much weaker restrictions, making it cheaper and easier for BASF to trial their crops here.
 Following the withdrawal from the trials of the farmer in Derbyshire, BASF have found a new location in Hedon/Preston, East Riding of Yorkshire. The Government is currently conducting a public consultation over the change in location, but it is highly likely to grant approval.
Court decision (Dutch):