The Soil Association has called on the British government to follow its experts' advice and protect organic crops from the next round of GM field scale trial sites, which were announced yesterday.
The organic food promotional group said that the trial sites risked contaminating organic crops if planted nearby. "There is growing evidence from the USA that commercial growing of GM crops will inevitably contaminate other crops," it said.
"Two major government advisory committees have urged ministers to act and have recommended that the government protects UK organic farming and the public's right to choose."
The government responded to these calls, and sought advice from the independent Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission on cross-pollination thresholds. The AEBC reported in September that it had serious doubts about the level of protection currently afforded to organic foods and called on the government to take action to ensure cross-pollination from GM crops cannot occur.
"A new regulatory and monitoring approach is needed to deliver GM-free food and ensure that the public's wishes are respected," said Peter Melchett, the Soil Association's policy director "The government must act to ensure UK farming does not suffer the terrible contamination problems experienced in the USA."
This is the last year of the three-year programme of Farm-Scale Evaluations (FSEs) of herbicide tolerant genetically modified crops. The government has approved 27 oilseed rape and 17 beet sites across the UK.
The announcement of the latest crop sites was made six weeks before any crops are to be sown in order to give people time to find out about the FSEs in their area, the government said. Depending on weather and soil conditions, sowing of the GM oilseed rape and beet is expected from 15 March onwards.
The trials are designed to investigate if there are any effects on wildlife from the farming practices associated with the particular GM crops in the study. The government claims that the crops grown in the FSEs are separated from any nearby conventional or organic crops to minimise any risk of cross-pollination, although organic groups believe the risk is still too high.