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  • GM crop mix-up site to stay secret

    Posted on June 11th, 2010 admin No comments
    GM foods does have something of an image problem

    GM foods do have something of an image problem

    In 2008 at a farm somewhere in Somerset a GM modified strain of rapeseed was accidentally sown by a farmer alongside a normal strain of the plant.

    The concern was that the GM variety – or the Frankenstein food as we journalists enjoy calling it – had been modified so that it was resistant to weed killers.

    Why scientists would want to develop a plant that can’t be controlled with weed killers is beyond me, it’s a little like deliberately developing a strain of disease that can’t be killed with medicine, and we call that germ warfare!

    Anyhow news of this “accidental spillage” as it is called leaked out and somebody asked DEFRA for the grid reference of where it had happened.

    Now on the face of it this didn’t seem an unreasonable request to me. If the food chain is being put at risk by cross pollination with a freaky science strain of plant which can’t be killed by a good dose of RoundUp I think we should be told.

    The request for the location was made to the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) under the Environmental Information Regulations.

    But it was rejected on the basis that disclosure would be a breach of the farmer’s rights under the Data Protection Act and therefore under Section 13(1) of the EIRs.

    DEFRA had revealed the incident took place in the parliamentary constituency of Somerset and Frome, which covers 900 square miles.

    The Commissioner said that he was minded to rule it should be further refined to the outbound section of the postcode (the first half), which covers an area of about 18 square kilometres.

    But this potential compromise agreement was not enough for the applicant who wanted the full grid reference, which it was said can be more detailed than a full postcode and which could easily lead to the identity of the farmer.

    The Commissioner was told the farmer thought he was carrying out trials on what he believed to be conventional rapeseed and was later told the seed was contaminated with a GM version.

    He was asked by DEFRA if he was prepared to be identified and unsurprisingly he said he’d rather not as it could affect the price of his farm and his reputation.

    So unless this case goes on to the Tribunal we shall never know where this incident took place as the Commissioner ruled the grid reference should not be disclosed [FER0260420]. But if I were a journalist in Somerset I’d be on the lookout for any weird botanical happenings down in the land of the scrumpy drinkers – and I’d like to know if cider sales are falling in Wilmslow.

    Anti GM activists on an undercover operation

    Anti GM activists on an undercover operation

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