US biotechnology multinational Monsanto has become one of the first companies in the UK to be prosecuted for breaching the terms of a consent to test a genetically modified crop. According to the government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is bringing the prosecution, the company failed to provide an adequate "pollen barrier" around a test planting of oilseed rape to prevent cross-pollination with neighbouring plants. News of the prosecution comes at a bad time for Monsanto, which has been waging an expensive public relations battle to improve public opinion of biotechnology and of the company (ENDS Daily 18 November). While the firm does not intend to contest the prosecution, it points out that the crop test was under the control of a third party, not Monsanto directly, and that as soon as it was notified of the breach it destroyed the trial site and other oilseed rape plants within 50 metres of it. The HSE is also prosecuting agricultural seed firm Perryfield Holdings for breaching the trial consent. The cases are due to be heard in February.
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