Protestors plant GM trial site with organic potatoes (22/4/2007)

Protestors plant GM trial site with organic potatoes
Press release, 22 April 2007

Contact Carl McCoy on 07858 177 178

People from all over the country are currently planting organic potatoes in the field proposed as a GM potato trial site outside Hull. It is hoped that the donation of safe spuds will prevent the planting of the controversial crop, which threatens the livelihoods of local borage growers and organic farmers.

Anna Lock explained: "If you want to eat good safe potatoes, you have to plant good safe potatoes. By planting organic potatoes in this field today, the field will be rendered unsuitable for the GM trial. Scientific experiments need controllable variables, tiny organic seed potatoes hidden deep in the ground are a variable controlled only by nature. These seed potatoes will grow and BASF's experiment will no longer be possible on this site."

The rally started as a GM-free potato picnic accompanied by live music with around 300 protestors, including kids and cyclists and many dressed as Mr Potato Head. A large number then set out across the field to plant organic potatoes. The rally marks the end of the government's consultation process on the experiment. The crop is the first to be proposed after public pressure bought an end to the trialing of GM in the UK nearly 3 years ago.

Yolande Black travelled all the way from Bristol to attend today's protest, "I think the government is testing the water with these potato trials, and it is vitally important that we show them that resistance is still alive and kicking and that we will continue fighting them every step of the way. GM is not a solution. 20% of conventional potato varieties are already resistant to blight and BASF have admitted that there is no market for GM food in the UK."

80 acres of borage have recently been sown near the trial site, and the crop will fail if beekeepers keep to the British Beekeepers Associations guidelines of keeping hives at least 6km distant from GM crops. The GM farmer has announced that he will not proceed if the issue is not resolved for his neighbours.

Note to editors:

1. Contact details: Carl McCoy on 07858 177 178 or visit the website at

2. The site is one of two due to be planted this year, the second proposed trial site at the National Institute of Agriculture and Botany (NIAB) in Cambridgeshire last weekend. The Hull trial site is to replace the one in Derbyshire after the farmer who pulled out. BASF intends to continue the trials for the next five years.

3. Borage is a lucrative crop grown as a source of Starflower Oil and used as a healthfood supplement and in skincare creams and cosmetics. BASF failed to contact the local borage farmers in advance of the trial. The farmers stand to lose up to GBP80,000.

4. On 5th April a public meeting and debate about the planting of the GM potatoes was held in Hedon. Dr Arpad Pusztai was one of the speakers attending. His experiments into feeding GM potatoes to rats appeared to demonstrate the GM potatoes cause damage to the rodents immune systems and growth rates. The work raised massive public concern and awareness of GM, but the experiments were never repeated. His evidence, and those of BASF's PR representative, caused the local council to renew their 2003 stance against GM. Opposition from local people attending was also strong, and a petition is due to be handed over to DEFRA and the farmer concerned before the rally.

5. In North America where GM crops are now widespread, cross-pollination regularly contaminates surrounding crops, even jumping species. Earlier in 2007 it was found that the experimental rice line LL601 had contaminated worldwide rice supplies, causing massive loss of markets, despite assurances that it was in a low risk cross pollination category.

6. BASF is a multinational company based in Germany. They were part of the notorious AG Farben which manufactured poison gas for the concentration camps, used slave labour and was convicted of war crimes at the end of WW2. It claims to be the largest chemical company in the world, and in 2005 it was the 3rd biggest global seller of pesticides.

7. Both Ireland and the Netherlands were due to run BASF's GM potato trials, but these were abandoned after concerns were raised about the environmental threats they posed.

8. Protestors are planting around 3000 organic seed potatoes of several different varieties.


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