GM crops "threaten" organic farming

UK report highlights difficulties of preventing cross-contamination by pollen or seeds

It will be virtually impossible to prevent some level of cross-pollination of organic crops by genetically modified (GM) plants if GM agriculture becomes widespread, a report commissioned by the UK agriculture ministry has concluded. Voluntary minimum separation distances between GM and organic crops may now have to be revised, agriculture minister Jeff Rooker conceded yesterday. Currently agreed separation distances for GM crops range between 200 metres for maize and oilseed rape and 600 metres for sugar and fodder beet. The report does not explicitly conclude that these are inadequate, but it does find that there will be some contamination of organic crops irrespective of the presence or absence of isolation of GM plants. Organic farming and environmental groups have reacted to the findings with alarm. The Soil Association accused the government of having a "pollute now and pay later" policy and said it would require registered organic farmers to notify it if they were within six miles of a GM crop. Earlier this year, a report commissioned by the organisation concluded that there was a one-in-93 chance of cross contamination by GM maize with a separation distance of 200 metres.

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