GeneWatch PR: Farm scale trials with GM oilseed rape could cover 12,350 acres in 2000

For immediate release Friday July 23rd 1999

Next year, GM oilseed rape could be grown on up to 12,350 acres of land in the UK. GeneWatch UK has discovered that AgrEvo, the company developing GM herbicide resistant oilseed rape, intend to increase the area of land involved in farm scale trials dramatically in the year 2000. This information is contained in letters to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) to vary the consent for the trials (1).

The Government-sponsored farm scale trials are intended to study the impacts of growing GM herbicide resistant crops on biodiversity. In a DETR briefing (2), it has been stated that there would be about 20 sites for each crop and that the size of the fields would be around 25 acres in size (3). AgrEvo’s letters reveal that the size of the fields could increase to 123.5 acres with a total of 100 sites of GM spring and winter oilseed rape.

"The public has been led to believe that the farm scale trials are part of a scientific research programme. Growing 12,000 acres of a GM crop is clearly a commercial enterprise and not controlled research," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch’s Director. "Any risks from GM crops cannot be contained when they are grown on such an enormous scale."

Today the DETR are holding a seminar to describe the farm scale trials with presentations from the scientists involved (4). GeneWatch UK will be attending the seminar and asking how such a massive scale of growing can be justified scientifically.

"It is clearly the companies developing the crops, not the scientists undertaking the research who are in the driving seat. Science is being used as a smokescreen for commercial scale growing," said Dr Mayer. "There must be a moratorium on the commercialisation of these crops so that research can be conducted without the burden of industrial pressure."

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Further Information:

Contact GeneWatch UK on:
Tel: +44 (0)1298 871898
Fax: +44 (0)1298 872531

Notes to Editors:

  1. Copies of the letters are available from GeneWatch UK
  2. Farm-scale evaluation of the impact of the management of GM herbicide tolerant oil-seed rape and maize on farmland wildlife. DETR Biotechnology Unit May 1999.
  3. The size of the fields is often given in hectares – one hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.
  4. The DETR seminar is being held from 10.00 to 13.00 on Friday 23rd July at the Society of Chemistry and Industry, Belgrave Square, London.

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