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Sabotaged promised as government test public resolve on GM

crop busters | 01.12.2006 12:57 | Bio-technology | Ecology | Social Struggles | Cambridge

Protesters have pledged to take direct action to sabotage genetically modified crop trials that the government has today given the go ahead for. These trials will be the first GM trials to take place in this country for several years after a sucessful campaign of resistance. The new trial is widely regarded as a test of public resolve before further attempts to introduce genetically modified organisms on a commercial scale to a unwilling public...

DEFRA has approved an application by chemical giant BASF (of nazi gas chamber fame) for trials of genetically modified potatoes resistant to late potato blight. They aim to plant the trials early next year at research sites in Derbyshire and Cambridgeshire, probably in April. However it is worth noting that the consent covers a period from 30th March 2007 until 30th November 2011.

Trial Site 1: District Erewash, community Borrowash;
grid references SK4333 and SK4334

Trial Site 2: District South Cambridgeshire, Girton/ Histon & Impington;
grid references TL 4262, TL4362, TL4362, TL4362, TL4363, TL4363

The DEFRA press release has the environment minister Ian Pearson claiming, "Our top priority on this issue remains protecting consumers and the environment, and a rigorous independent assessment has concluded that these trials do not give rise to any safety concerns".

This ignores massive public opposition, a long history of failures by the GM industry, widespread contamination and specific dangers possed by the fact that potatoes are a very persistant plant.

Adding to the government spin today, botany professor Chris Leaver from Oxford University told the press that, "Potato blight was the cause of the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s and is still a problem in farming today". His statement was designed to present genetic engineering as natural and safe. "In my opinion using a natural biological method to control blight is better than using chemicals," he said.

Meanwhile Barry Stickings, from BASF’s public relations department said, “We are delighted that DEFRA has given us the go-ahead to conduct genetically modified potato trials in the UK... We are confident that planting will commence in March/April next year.”

The decision has outraged many. The Soil Asssociation was quick to express dismayed and added that there was clearly no market for GMO potatoes in Britain. Peter Melchett the Soil Association policy director said, "The government is ignoring what consumers want to eat and their health and safety...The chances of anyone in the UK willingly buying GM potato crisps or chips are zero. This trial is a monumental waste of time and money"

However, this trial is not really about blight and the industry is not really interested in whether in the short term there is a market for these particular varieties. The industry is playing the long game. This trial is not about potatoe blight, it is a trial of public resolve. If the public fail to make enough noise then the floodgates will be open for a new wave of GM trials and commericialisation.

More background on this approval:

BASF submitted the application to DEFRA in August 2006:

Indentical struggle in New Zealand:,2106,3846168a3600,00.html
and South Africa

Green Gloves Pledge:

crop busters


Dr Pusztai speaks out against the new trials

01.12.2006 20:50

A story being carried by the Press Association and published on the Guardian Online reports that Dr Pusztai is speaking out against these new trials. He says that it would be "almost impossible to avoid genetic contamination" if these potatoes are planted on a large scale. Labling the trials as an "extremely stupid move" he stressed that going ahead with the trials "is just playing with fire."

Dr Puszti is a Hungarian-born nutritionist whos controversial study in 1998 sent shockwaves through the biotech industry. In his study he had feed GM potatoes to rats and said that his research showed that the alien nature of GM food had weaken their immune system, stunted their growth and damaged their internal organs.

The Press Association article reports that Dr Puszti thought that the Government had approved these trials as part of an attempts to sway the public's negative attitude towards genetic modified foods.

Dr Pusztai said that the trials would not be allowed in many other EU countries and he felt BASF saw the British government as a "soft touch".

"I think the general public will have a great deal to say about this and I don't think the local farmers will be overjoyed.", he said.

"If these potatoes are going to be grown on a large scale then it is almost impossible to avoid genetic contamination.", he said.

"We are dealing with a very unstable genome which will almost certainly be producing some toxic effects and if they get into our human food chain it will cause a huge calamity," he said.

"Sooner or later the same gene will get into our common potato. There is no demand for genetic modification in this country and it could be the death nail for the potato because it is not going to be bought by the general public.", he said.

"If people agree that they don't want this, then it can be stopped," he said.

crop watcher


Display the following 3 comments

  1. Any practical advice? — Bob
  2. doesn't matter too much... — organic girl
  3. Where — Star