On the night of Friday the 6th of July, a group of activists converged on Britain's only GM trial site just outside Cambridge. They scaled the security fences and destroyed the crop of genetically modified potatoes.
This was the only crop of GM potatoes being grown in the UK, after the chemicals giant BASF abandoned plans for a GM potato trial in Yorkshire this year. There have been multiple protests at the Cambridge site [video] and at the Yorkshire site (where organic potatoes were planted [video]).
However BASF have permission lasting until 2011, so this may not be the end of the story ...
The trials were the first GM crops to enter British soil in nearly 3 years, after public opposition forced a U-turn in government and corporate plans for patented crops. Although presented as an R&D trial into the effectiveness of an anti blight gene, they were widely considered to be trial of public opinion.
DEFRA initially gave approval in December for BASF to undertake trials at two sites, one in Cambridgeshire (at the National Institute of Agriculture and Botany) and the other initially in Derbyshire - until the farmer pulled out. The Yorkshire site was then chosen, but the owner of that site pulled out after being approached about borage being grown nearby, with the consequence that the trial would affect locally produced honey.
In more recent news, the EU Agriculture Council failed to approve the commercial growing of the genetically modified potato. However, this means that the European Commission (which backed BASF's proposal) will take the final decision on whether to allow commercialisation of the potato. Approval was likely in the "coming months," the Commission said.