DEFRA green-lights GM plant trial

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has given the go-ahead for scientists to grow genetically-modified plants in the hope of helping protect against heart disease.

Statutory consent has been granted to Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire to carry out a small-scale field trial of GM camelina plants, modified to produce omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in its seed oils. The trial, said to be the first field trial of nutrient-enriched crops in the UK, is due to start this spring and run until 2017.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have long been known to be beneficial for heart health and protect against heart disease and the trial is being heralded as a possible answer to the problem of over-fishing.

However, Emma Hockridge, Soil Association head of policy, said of the move: “This is a waste of scarce public funds by Rothamsted Research – it is choosing to carry out trials of GM Camelina when two non-GM Omega 3 producing crops are already available to UK farmers. Government scientists in the US have recently confirmed that GM crops do not yield any more than non-GM crops, and sometimes even less. GM crops are making farming less fair, more risky and no more sustainable. Instead, we support practical science and innovation that addresses real needs, is genuinely sustainable and puts farmers in control of their livelihoods.”