GM committee publishes rules for next year’s UK trials

The committee in charge of the UK's trials of GM crops has reviewed the 1999 trials and issued recommendations for next year. These include allowing for some sites to be trashed by GM protesters without invalidating the trials as a whole.

The Scientific Steering Committee’s recommendations for 2000 trials include:

  • the use of split rather than paired fields
  • 25 trial sites per crop, at between 5 and 10 hectares, to allow for “redundancy”
  • choice of trial sites to represent the range of farming environments where such crops could be grown
  • research on species that are indicative of long-term change and of change higher up the food chain (weeds, seeds, snails, caterpillars, beetles, etc)
  • results to be peer reviewed

A Government GM spokesperson told edie that designing-in enough trial sites for redundancy does relate, in part, to the expectation that some sites will be damaged or destroyed. “It relates to invalidation through all sorts of things. Trashing, obviously, but also things like seeds not germinating and other standard agricultural problems,” said the spokesperson. “The Committee does have to take into account that people are going around trashing sites.”

The members of the Scientific Steering Committee that manages the Farm-Scale Evaluations are:

  • Dr David Gibbons, head of conservation science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • Dr Alastair Burn, English Nature
  • Dr Nick Sotherton, director of research at the Game Conservancy Trust
  • Dr Nicholas Aebischer, director of biometrics at the Game Conservancy Trust
  • Jim Orson, director of the Morley Research Centre
  • Professor Mick Crawley from Imperial College

The ecological studies for the Farm-Scale Evaluations are carried out by a consortium lead by the Natural Environment Research Council’s Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. The consortium also includes the Institute of Arable Crop Research and the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

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