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UPDATE - Environment groups warn UK govt on gene crop sites

02.02.2002
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UPDATE - Environment groups warn UK govt on gene crop sites
LONDON - Britain risks tainting conventional and organic crops with gene-modified varieties via new field trial sites which were announced yesterday, environment groups said.
\"If planted close to organic farms, the trial sites risk contaminating organic crops,\" the Soil Association said in a statement. The trial sites detailed by Britain\'s farm ministry, including 27 for rapeseed and 17 for sugar beet, are the second last of its three-year programme to evaluate whether gene-spliced crops should be grown commercially. The government is sticking to its set separation distances, which are designed to ensure that cross-pollination is a maximum of one percent, even though farm minister Margaret Beckett had said that there was a case for wider distances. \"The separation distance around these crop trials are pathetic. If they go ahead, neighbouring conventional and organic crops within a five kilometre radius will be at risk of GM contamination,\" Friends of the Earth said. \"The government knows the separation distances are inadequate but has recklessly failed to act.\" When the trial site plans were first proposed this month, the government also asked its independent biotechnology advisers to draw up plans for a public debate, particularly to measure opinion on contamination of non-GM crops with modified material. The Policy Commission on Food and Farming, which published a radical blueprint on the future of English farming this week, said that \"the public wants a choice, including the choice to have GM-free food, while some producers, such as organic farmers, depend on being able to guarantee that their products are GM free.\" \"As things stand the public doubts whether that can be delivered, if a spread of GM crops is approved,\" it added. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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