Farmer welcomes GM crop licence hope

By Roddy AshworthA FARMER who allowed his land to be used for GM maize trials has welcomed the prospect of the crop being commercially licensed.Jim Dutton gave his endorsement after a Government plan to press ahead with licensing genetically-modified (GM) maize for commercial production was leaked yesterday.

By Roddy Ashworth

A FARMER who allowed his land to be used for GM maize trials has welcomed the prospect of the crop being commercially licensed.

Jim Dutton gave his endorsement after a Government plan to press ahead with licensing genetically-modified (GM) maize for commercial production was leaked yesterday.

Mr Dutton, from Sunnymead Farm, Wivenhoe, near Colchester, grew the modified seed for a three-year period - during which his crops were twice damaged by anti-GM protesters.

“It is nice to see a GM crop being licensed. It is a beginning. During the trials here, it seemed to be better for wildlife. It is good to see the powers-that-be agreed with that,” he said.

But Roger Mainwood, chairman of the campaign group Concerned Residents of Wivenhoe, said the Government appeared to be flying in the face of public opinion.

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“The national GM debate last year clearly showed that the public don't want GM crops to be grown in the UK,” he added.

“This was not the answer the Government wanted and so a 'presentational strategy' is now being hatched to persuade us otherwise.

“If a Government go-ahead is given, then I would be surprised if many or any farmer in the UK would want to grow a product next year for which there is absolutely no market.”

According to the leaked Cabinet sub-committee minutes, ministers agreed “the public was unlikely to be receptive” to the move to licence GM crops.

However, it was agreed that “careful presentation” of the EU's focus on evidence-based decision-making could help and opposition might eventually be worn down by solid, authoritative scientific argument.

But former environment minister, Michael Meacher, said there was no “moral, scientific or political authority” for the move.

He argued the comparison with EU trials was “invalid” because of changes in chemical spray regulations.

Mr Meacher added voters remained unconvinced and no method of protecting conventional and organic crops from contamination had been agreed.

Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth, said the leak showed the interests of big business had triumphed over public opinion.

Patrick Holden, of the Soil Association, warned pressing ahead with the mover would be a “tragedy for our country”.

He added full-scale commercialisation would jeopardise Britain's ability to produce GM-free crops and claimed consultation had showed there was no economic case for commercialisation of GM crops. roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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