19 June 2002

Trials of GM crops 'are too limited'

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent

Government field trials of GM crops were too "limited" to answer public concerns about the safety of genetically modified food, MPs said yesterday.

Choice of plants in the experiments was "unfortunate", said a report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which called for more independent tests funded by the Government.

Mistrust of politicians could hold back understanding of GM food and MPs urged ministers to stay at "arm's length" from the findings.

Their report also called for a serious public debate about genetic modification based on science, and urged those with "entrenched views and vested interests to engage the wider public".

The three-year programme of field-scale trials of maize, beet, winter oil seed rape and spring oil seed rape is due to end next year.

By the end of the programme, each of the four herbicide-tolerant crops will have been tested in the field between 60 and 75 times for any impact on biodiversity.

The report was critical of crops being used for the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs trials."It is unfortunate that they are not directly used by consumers," it said.