Breeding

Plans for GM potato trial in the UK under fire

Thirty-one organic and environmental organisations have urged Michael Gove to reject plans by Cambridge scientists for a new open-air field trial of GM potatoes.

Groups such as GM Freeze, Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association, are fighting the trial proposal, which they say could risk off-target effects and unintended impacts, such as the accidental spread of the GM crop or accidental consumption by animals of humans.

The potatoes that The Sainsbury Laboratory (unconnected to Sainsbury’s supermarket) hope to plant contain several different genes that work in different ways to control different biological functions. But those protesting the trial say the trial is not consider the possible interactions between such stacked traits.

GM Freeze director Liz O’Neill says: “When a patient is prescribed more than one medication, their doctor and pharmacist consider the potential for interactions on a case by case basis. Here, a bunch of unrelated genes are being added to a staple food crop and assessed for safety on a simple ‘face value’ basis.”

Critics are urging Defra secretary Michael Gove to refuse permission for the trial, which also uses gene-silencing techniques to “switch off” the function of certain genes, after the laboratory submitted the application at the end of March.

The objection document listed five core complaints.

Read the full report on Fruitnet

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