FARMER PULLS OUT OF GM CROP TRIAL (updated)

15 December 2006
A Farmer who had agreed to genetically modified potatoes being grown on his land has pulled out of the scheme after receiving threats.

The crops were to be planted in Borrowash by BASF Plant Science, which was granted permission for the project by the Government earlier this year.

But yesterday, it was revealed the farmer with whom the company had agreed a deal was not willing to go ahead.

BASF is also planning a GM trial in Cambridgeshire.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, condemned the people who had targeted the farmer.

He said: "This gentleman has had some threats made against him and his family and so decided he didn't want to participate.

"It is up to the company to decide whether it will look for an alternative site.

"We think it is outrageous this man has been threatened in this way."

The potatoes would have been chemically altered to contain a gene from a variety of wild potato that would have made them resistant to the late blight disease.

Late blight, which sparked the Irish potato famine, affects between five and 10 per cent of UK potato crops each year.

BASF Plant Science had planned to start the trial in Derbyshire next March or April. It would have lasted several years.

The company did not reveal the location of the trial to try to protect the farmer from opponents of the scheme, who claim GM crops pose a threat to the environment when seeds spread in the wild.

Some residents of Borrowash were concerned about the crops trial. Jackie Flint, of Cole Lane, said: "There were many people who were worried about it going ahead around here, so I think it will be seen as good news that it's been stopped."

No-one from BASF Plant Science, a plant biotechnology company based in London, was available for comment last night.
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BASF is expect to confirm another trial site within two weeks, but could not say if it would be in Derbyshire.