British Gov't Halts Maize Trials
LONDON (AP) - Following a week of protests by environmental groups, the government on Monday canceled trials of genetically modified maize.
Protesters had feared that pollen from the site would be carried by the wind or transported by birds and insects into neighboring fields and contaminate a nearby organic research center, the Henry Doubleday Research Association Ryton Organic Garden, near Coventry.
The research group growing the crops, the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops, "responded positively to public concerns," when it halted the trials, said Environment Minister Michael Meacher.
Campaigners welcomed the decision to withdraw the trials of herbicide-tolerant maize at Wolston.
"We are delighted. This is a great victory for common sense over contamination," said Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, which promotes organic farming.
Genetically modified, or GM, crops are plants whose genes are manipulated in order to produce desirable characteristics, such as resistance to pests.
The United States has already approved 50 varieties of genetically modified crops, but their introduction to parts of Europe has proved more controversial.
Britain, which has yet to approve any genetically modified crops, is overseeing test growing in 100 small-scale and five full-scale fields across the country to gather information about their safety.
Friends of the Earth welcomed the abandoning of the trial site.
"We are delighted that the biotech industry has finally seen sense and agreed to abandon the GM trial site," said Peter Riley, the organization's campaigner on genetically modified crops.
Meacher said Monday he was pleased the issue had been resolved, but he said he continued to support evaluation of genetically modified crops.
"I remain strongly committed to the completion of this program because Britain urgently needs an independent test on the impact of GM technology on the environment," he said.