Farmers pull out of GM crop trials
"It must be confined to the laboratory." Jonathan Matthews, NGIN spokesman
By Chris Bishop
Eastern Daily Press (EDP) 6/5/99
Genetically modified food firms are facing a crisis of confidence as
Norfolk's farmers turn their backs on them.
Half the farmers who have agreed to take part in trials have now pulled
out, it was revealed last night.
Government figures show the number of test sites in Norfolk alone fell
from 44 in 1998 to just 14 this year.
Fears over the safety of GM crops were the main reason cited by former
GM farmers replying to a survey carried out by Norfolk Genetic
Last night Norwich-based NGIN said its findings proved ministers should
halt larger GM trials, due to start this summer, until more is known
about long-term effects.
"It goes to show that there's no room for complacency," NGIN spokesman
Jonathan Matthews said.
"Just when unease is growing among farmers, the Government is rushing
into new farmscale trials that will turn the countryside into a vast
open air laboratory.
"We certainly need extensive research but until the risks are far better
understood it must be confined to the laboratory."
East Anglia used to have more test sites than any other part of Britain.
Most are sponsored by biotechno logy firms like AgrEvo and Monsanto.
Yesterday King's Lynn based AgrEvo insisted that it had no problems
finding farmers willing to host test sites.
The Ministry of Agriculture said tests were necessary to show GM foods
"The reason we need these tests to go ahead is so that we can assess
their safety," a spokesman said.
Mike Hollingsworth regional spokesman for the National Farmers' Union
said: "A lot of farmers are concerned to ensure that GM crops are safe.
"But if the trials which would show whether they are safe don't go ahead
we aren't going to get the answers anyway."
Swaffham smallholder Brian Baxter, who this year hit out at plans to
grow GM test crops near his organic plot, said: "Conversations I've had
with fellow farmer certainly suggest there is a gap opening up on this
issue between what is being said in public and what many are prepared to
say in private.
"Britain's farmers have already been badly hurt over issues like BSE and
"I think they may be starting to wake up to the fact that they could be
sold down the river yet again and that their livelihoods are at stake."
NGIN sent questionnaires to 14 Norfolk farmers who have taken part in GM
trials. Of the nine who replied seven said they were no longer involved.
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