GM Crops to be Grown at Military Sites

November 17th, 2008 - by admin

Ellen Widdup / This Is London & Sean Poulter / London Daily Mail & Lucy Busuttil / Farmers Weekly – 2008-11-17 21:20:05

GM Crops to be Grown at Military Sites
Ellen Widdup / This Is London

LONDON (November 17, 2008) — The Government is drawing up plans to grow genetically modified crops in top secret military locations to thwart saboteurs.

The campaign may see crops grown at sites such as Porton Down in Salisbury, which carries out military research and includes a science park.

The police could also be asked to target opponents of GM crops in the same way they have clamped down on some animal rights protesters.

Ministers intend to scrap a rule that says scientists must disclose the location of GM crop trials on a government website. Hilary Benn, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson are also demanding a review of security arrangements.

Mr Benn said: “We need to see if they [GM foods] have a contribution to make and we won’t know the answer about their environmental impact unless we run controlled experiments.”

Reader Views
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Why not do an experiment of GM foods, by having MPs — and Bliar and his family — force-fed ONLY GM produce, say for 20 years, and then we’ll decide if we want it or not.
— Ralph, GB

This shows how desperate the pro-GM lobby are — resorting to growing their rubbish in secret on military land, used to test germ warfare and the like. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the impartiality and objectivity of the results of yet another “controlled experiment.” Will the resulting crops be fed to unsuspecting squaddies?
— Austen, London

‘Frankenstein’ Crops Could be Grown in Secret to Halt GM Trial Sabotage
Sean Poulter / London Daily Mail

LONDON (November 17, 2008) — GM crop trials should be carried out in secret or behind security fences in a bid to prevent saboteurs from ripping them out of the ground, it is claimed.

UK scientists and biotech companies are putting pressure on ministers to implement special protection measures. They are understood to have support in government from Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, who is keen to support GM science and farming.

However, the proposals have been slammed by critics who say secret trials would expose vast areas of the country to disastrous GM contamination. Conventional and organic farmers could find their crops are contaminated with GM pollen without any idea who is responsible.

The vast majority of consumers, supermarkets and food manufacturers in Britain and Europe have made clear they do not want GM crops and food. Questions have been raised about GM farming techniques and their harm on the environment and beneficial insects such as bees.

Just last week, a study funded by the government of Austria suggested GM corn could harm fertility following a feeding trial with rats.

Experts at the University of Leeds claim they are being prevented from carrying out trials on GM potatoes and other crops for fear they will be wrecked by protestors.

They claim the only way to go ahead is either to keep their precise location a secret or spend many thousands of pounds on security fencing and guards.

They are considering asking a Government funding body, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, to stump up £100,000 for fencing.

It has even been suggested that the Government’s military research centre at Porton Down, best known for its research into chemical warfare, could be used to protect the trials.

Professor Tim Dean, who is research dean at the Leeds Faculty of Biological Science, believes GM technology is a vital tool in feeding the world’s growing population.

He said the public should have faith in the Government to police GM crop trials without the need to say where they are.

‘What we should have as a society is faith in the system that we can do things properly. If we have a democratically elected government, what is the point in publishing the location of GM trials,’ he said. ‘We have to find a way to allow science to go ahead without vandalism.’

Prof Dean said there was ‘some degree of sense’ to using Porton Down. ‘It is in the middle of a firing range, it would be quite difficult to trash trials there and it has some good quality farmland,’ he said.

Lord Mandelson was a cheerleader for GM during his tenure as a trade commissioner in Brussels, while the food and farming Secretary Hilary Benn has also signalled support for trials.

It is clear that ministers are trying to find some way to ensure the crop trials go ahead. A spokesman for Mr Benn’s department, DEFRA, said: ‘Sensible and credible decisions on GM organisms cannot be taken without solid scientific evidence.

‘The government has always maintained that human and environmental health are paramount, but the destruction and vandalism of GM crop trials risks withholding potential benefits to agriculture while simultaneously harming the UK’s science base.’

In the past, protestors have walked free after being arrested and prosecuted for criminal damage to crop trials.

Peter Melchett, who is policy director at the Soil Association and among those cleared in the past, condemned efforts to hold the trials in secret. He said: ‘Porton Down is probably a suitable location for GM potato trials. It would properly symbolise the threat of GM technology to Britain’s potato farmers.’

Lord Melchett said: ‘Regardless of what the GM advocates want, it is illegal under EU law to keep the location of trials secret. That is for a very good reason, because it poses a real danger of contamination to non-GM and organic crops. ‘We know, for example, that virtually the entire US long-grain rice crop was found to be contaminated with a GM crop that was only grown in trials.

‘The contamination had huge commercial implications with the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of exports. Separately, researchers in Sweden found GM plants were still growing in fields which had hosted a crop trial ten years earlier. Someone buying that land could find it is heavily infested with GM plants with the result they would be unable to use it for growing conventional or organic crops.’

Lord Melchett said that Lord Mandelson had been the most pro-GM commissioner of all those in Brussels. ‘The one value of having him back in the UK is that he is no longer able to push for the adoption of GM in Europe despite the opposition to the governments and people of the vast majority of member states,’ he said.

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DEFRA Plans Secret GM Trial Sites
Lucy Busuttil / Farmers Weekly

(November 17, 2008) — The locations of genetically modified crop trials will be kept secret in the future to prevent protesters from wrecking the trial sites, DEFRA has announced.

Almost all of the 54 GM crop trials conducted since 2000 have been vandalised because of government rules which stated that the grid reference of the trial had to be publicised. DEFRA also plans to conduct the trials at more secure locations from now on.

Farm fields and university sites were chosen in the past, allowing protesters to gain access. In the future secure government sites such as Porton Down near Salisbury, which carries out military research, will be used instead.

Ministers will also have more power to crack down on the opponents of GM crops. Rules introduced in 2005 have given police more powers to prosecute activists after Huntingdon Life Sciences was attacked by animal rights extremists.

“We need to see if they [GM foods] have a contribution to make – and we won’t know the answer unless we run controlled experiments,” said Hilary Benn, the DEFRA secretary.

Gordon Brown is aware that there has been public opposition to previous GM trials – notably from young mothers – but has said he will follow the science.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.