19 January 2002

New GM crop trials to start in 50 fields

By Dan Gledhill

More than 50 new fields of genetically modified crops are to be planted around the country this spring in an extension of the Government's controversial trials.

The Scientific Steering Committee, the independent body overseeing the trials, has recommended there should be up to 32 new oilseed rape and 25 beet sites. The three-year trials, which will come to their end this year, have already aroused a heated debate. Campaigners concerned at their impact on the surrounding environment have tried to sabotage them on several occasions.

A list of new locations – bringing the total to about 150 – will be agreed between scientists, farmers and the biotechnology industry. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will then be told of the six- figure grid references for the selected sites.

The Government believed it was important for people to know as soon as possible what was happening in their neighbourhood and why.

New locations proposed for maize, which is sown later, will be looked at next month.

The independent Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment says the crops are safe for human or animal health and for the environment.