More GM Crop Trials

Reproduced from the Rutland and Stamford Mercury website …

More genetically modified (GM) crops are set to be grown near Stamford.

Glebe Farm in Castle Bytham is one of 25 new testing sites across the country to be announced by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.Organised by the firm Aventis, the aim of the trial is to test the effects of herbicide-tolerant GM oilseed rape on the environment. Last year the Mercury reported trials of GM crops were due to take place near Wansford and in 1998 we revealed trials of GM sugar beet had been sanctioned at farms in Ketton and Pilsgate.

Farmer Geoffrey Hix, of Glebe Farm, Castle Bytham, maintains the GM crops he is about to trial will be safe. He said: I don t think there is a problem with it. It does not involve anything other than doing what we normally do, apart from planting this particular variety alongside a normal variety to assess the impact on the environment. The chemical used on the GM crop has been proved to be safe over the years but instead of fashioning a chemical which is harmless to the crop the crop has been modified to be tolerant of the chemical. In other words it is only the weeds that suffer. We have been selecting farm crops for thousands of years. Modern wheat is totally different from the grass it originated from. People do not realise it has been crossed in laboratory conditions. There is no difference.

But Jane Reid, a director at Pepperidge Herb Nursery in Castle Bytham, only a few miles away from where the crops are to be grown, is concerned. She told the Mercury: We primarily grow herbs for garden centres but we also produce plant material, used to make medicines. It is this material we would be most concerned about. We have a very open view of crop testing because we think some genetic work is very important, however, we are looking to have a meeting with Mr Hix just to see what these trials involve.

John Turner, whose farm in Little Bytham has converted to organic status, is very concerned about the risk posed by the crop trials.He said: We have a couple of years of work invested in the conversion to organic status so we are quite worried about these trials. Aventis recommended buffer zone is 50 metres but the National Pollen Research Council has shown the damage to businesses is of a much wider area. If the Soil Association decide the risk is high they have to test our produce. If they find GM material, we could lose our organic status.