UK further delays GM crop commercialisation

Biotechnology industry signs voluntary deal to continue biodiversity evaluations until 2002

Genetically modified (GM) crops will not be grown commercially in the UK until 2002, under a voluntary deal announced by the government and the biotechnology industry today. The agreement extends an existing series of "farm-scale" trials of GM crops started earlier this year (ENDS Daily 16 April). The four varieties of winter and spring oilseed rape, forage maize and fodder beet being tested all have EU cultivation permits, according to Scimac, the GM crop industry body which signed the deal. Environment minister Michael Meacher stressed today that the agreement was "not a ban or moratorium on GM crops," for which he said there were "no legal, scientific or safety reasons". "Moving forward in a cautious and rigorous manner will help us to make a judgement not only whether there is a downside to the introduction of this new technology, but also about any potential benefits," he continued. Scimac welcomed the deal, which it said established "a clearly defined programme to take forward the development and evaluation of GM crops in the UK". "This agreement will help strengthen public confidence in GM crops," the association continued. However, while some environmental groups are happy with the deal, Friends of the Earth said it was "bitterly disappointed" because the "discredited farm-scale trials will continue, and on a massively increased scale".

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 171 890 3000; Scimac, tel: +44 1733 231 133; Friends of the Earth England, {Wales} & {Northern Ireland}, tel: +44 171 490 1555.

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