Farmer welcomes GM findings

AN ESSEX farmer at the heart of the government's GM crop trials last nightwelcomed an announcement that genetically modified maize crops did not adversely affect wildlife.

AN ESSEX farmer at the heart of the government's GM crop trials last nightwelcomed an announcement that genetically modified maize crops did not adversely affect wildlife.

The message relating to GM herbicide tolerant maize crops was announced by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) yesterday.

The Government advisory body, has spent the past three months looking at the results of a three-year nationwide field scale trials of crops.

However the ACRE panel, which has spent the last three months looking at the results of a three-year nationwide field scale trials of crops, warned that if GM beet and spring sown oil seed rape were to be grown, that would have adverse effects on arable weed populations and in turn on insects and birds.

Farmer Jim Dutton, who is undertaking the farm scale evaluation of GM forage maize on his land at Wivenhoe, said: “It is nice and I think eventually I would expect all the crops to be allowed.

“The maize to me was obviously friendly to the environment as weeds came up over the winter which they would not have in the controlled crop.”

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Mr Dutton's crops have been targeted several times by ego warriors during the trial, causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage.

He said: “It was almost like they were worried the trial would show good results.”

Roger Mainwood, spokesman of campaign group CROW (Concerned Residents of Wivenhoe) said: “We believe that the results of the GM maize crop trials are fundamentally flawed and should not be used to green light the commercial growing of GM maize in the UK, as today's announcement appears to do.

“The GM maize was compared to a conventional maize crop that was sprayed with atrazine, a herbicide that is now to be banned in EU states. This fact alone means that no firm conclusions can be drawn from the trials.

“CROW believes that the trials in the UK didn't go anywhere near addressing the long term impact on the environment of growing these GM crops. The experience from the States clearly shows that one of the central selling points used by GM crop companies, namely that the crops benefit the environment because they need fewer agrochemicals, is false.”

Jules Pretty, deputy chairman of ACRE, said: “In a sense we are saying “yes, but” to the maize and “no, but”, both to the beet and the spring sown oil seed rape. That is not 'yes, no, no'. That is very important.”

English Nature, another advisory panel to Government, has told ministers that oilseed rape and beet should not be commercialised, but GM herbicide tolerant maize may be commercialised subject to certain conditions.

Environment minister Elliot Morley said the decision on maize, beet and spring sown oil seed rape would be announced after Whitehall had consulted with the UK's devolved administrations.

Mr Morley told the Commons' environmental audit committee that decisions on commercial cultivation could be expected by the end of this month or the beginning of February.

He told MPs: "It is quite clear from the farm-scale evaluations that the GM maize came out better in relation to the environmental consequences than conventional maize."

Mr Morley made clear that, as things stand, there is little prospect of GM beet and spring sown oil seed rape getting the go-ahead.

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