GM Seed Trial Ceases

Aventis are the first firm to attempt to get a GM (genetically modified) seed on to the "national seed list" - the final legal requirement before a seed can be sold to UK farmers. Friends of the Earth, however, discovered a little-known law which gave the public the right to appeal against the decision. 67 groups and individuals paid £60 to have their objections heard in public, with hundreds more filing written objections. As a result a public hearing started in London in October. Throughout the hearing, Aventis have refused to produce any evidence whatsoever.

The "trial" was due to come to Manchester in November. However, just before the move, the Government admitted that official basic tests on the GM crop had only been conducted for one year by the French authorities rather than the two required under EU law. When the hearing reopened in Manchester, the Government was seeking an indefinite postponement. There were several hours of reasoning by Friends of the Earth and other concerned bodies that the hearing should continue. Evidence presented so far from expert scientific witnesses had cast severe doubts over the validity of allowing the seed to be listed, due to concerns over the failure to test the GM maize on cows and "suspicious" higher death rates among chickens eating the GM maize during trials. The green groups wanted the hearing to continure so that all this evidence could be taken into account and the seed refused permission to be on the seed list.

However, the postponement is not a complete loss. Until the seed is on the national register it cannot be sold. The hearing will be resumed when the EU Commission eventually gives guidance over the defects in the French testing.

Manchester FoE (0161 834 8221)

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