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UK Scientists to clash at GM crop safety hearing

UK Scientists to clash at GM crop safety hearing
LONDON - Rival scientists will clash yesterday at a hearing on the British government\'s stalled decision to approve the country\'s first gene-modified crop for sale despite unease among consumers.
Green group Friends of the Earth is calling for the government to ban sales in the UK of the gene-spliced maize, called Chardon LL, produced by biotechnology firm Aventis CropScience . Some consumer groups fear gene-spliced food could usher in another food scare similar to mad cow disease, while environmentalists say GM crops will contaminate traditional varieties and change the countryside. An Aventis spokesman said the company welcomed the opportunity of the public hearing to set out why it believes the maize is safe and should be commercialised in Britain. Wednesday\'s hearing, set up by the UK government\'s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) and the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF) will listen to criticism of evidence submitted about the maize, which was approved in 1998 to be commercially sold and grown in Europe. In 2000, Britain\'s government said it would allow the Chardon LL seeds to go on its National Seed List, which would allow them to be sold to British farmers for commerical use. But subsequent hearings on that decision broke down and the licence application was suspended after independent scientists presented evidence showing that the maize variety had been tested for only one year instead of the necessary two. \"This GM maize should never have been given commercial approval in the first place. The fact that poor and incomplete science didn\'t prevent government advisors from giving it the go-ahead is a major cause for concern and highlights the lack of rigour applied to GM food and crops,\" Friends of the Earth spokesman Adrian Bebb said. After the fresh hearings, ACRE will consider and advise ministers on the validity of the orginal decision to grant approval for sale of the GM maize seeds. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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