Document Directory

20 Sep 00 - GMO - Greenpeace director cleared of criminal damage charge
20 Sep 00 - GMO - Melchett cleared over GM crop damage
20 Sep 00 - GMO - Greenpeace cleared in GM case
12 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops 'good for wildlife and yield'
09 Sep 00 - GMO - Fruit could deliver anti-tooth decay protein
09 Sep 00 - GMO - GM apple a day may protect teeth
09 Sep 00 - GMO - GM apple will keep dentist away
07 Sep 00 - GMO - Princess calls for open mind on GM
06 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops 'worse than N-waste'
05 Sep 00 - GMO - GM field 'damaged to attract publicity' to protest
05 Sep 00 - GMO - Attack on GM field 'was for publicity'
05 Sep 00 - GMO - Lord Melchett and company back in the dock
02 Sep 00 - GMO - Organic food no healthier, says "expert"
02 Sep 00 - GMO - Sales boom in organic food set to continue
02 Sep 00 - GMO - Food chief appointed to rebuild public confidence
02 Sep 00 - GMO - Organic food 'is a waste of money'
02 Sep 00 - GMO - Supermarkets full of choice - by staying 'inorganic'
01 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops 'could put bird life in jeopardy'
01 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops could drive away birds



20 Sep 00 - GMO - Greenpeace director cleared of criminal damage charge

By Gareth Crickmer

Independent ... Wednesday 20 September 2000


Twenty eight Greenpeace supporters, including its executive director Lord Melchett, have been cleared of causing criminal damage to a field of genetically-modified maize.

All admitted trashing the field in an orchestrated attack at Lyng, Norfolk, in August last year.

But they denied the charges, arguing they acted lawfully to prevent pollen from genetically-modified maize polluting neighbouring organic crops and gardens.

A jury at Norwich Crown Court found them not guilty after a two week trial.

At a trial in April all 28 were also cleared of theft as a result of the same incident but that jury failed to reach a verdict on the criminal damage charge.

Lord Melchett, 52, has now called on the Government to end GM farm trials "before any further genetic pollution of the environment occurs".

He said: "Greenpeace wanted to remove the GM maize in Norfolk because we believe that GM crops will inevitably contaminate the environment.

"The Government is currently reviewing separation distances imposed between GM crops and other similar crops - separation distances which we said were completely inadequate when we took action in July 1999.

"GM material is still being used to feed farm animals in Europe although a growing number of retailers - such as Iceland in the UK - are already committed to selling animal products from animals not fed on GM crops . We expect other European retailers to follow suit over the next few weeks."

But the Government said trials planned for later this year would go ahead.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said: "If we halt our strictly controlled research there would be widespread GM crop planting without us getting the real scientific evidence we need.

"These farm-scale evaluations are vital for us to assess whether there are any unacceptable effects on the environment and human health by growing and managing GM crops," the spokesman said.

Police said the verdict did not give activists the green light for further attacks, despite Greenpeace labelling it a "landmark " and declaring a new "hit list " of 26 GM trial farms.

Detective Sergeant Tom Neill, who investigated the case, said: "As far as we are concerned this does not set any precedent.

"Any other further acts which affect people going about their lawful business will be investigated as normal by Norfolk police."

And the National Farmers' Union said the verdict was "perverse" and declared "open season" on British farmland.

NFU president Ben Gill said he would be writing to Home Secretary Jack Straw ahead of a planned meeting to discuss the issues raised by the case.

"We find it extraordinary that, even with such clear evidence, a not guilty verdict was reached. This gives the green light to wanton vandalism and trespass."

Lord Melchett told the court he believed the genetic modification of crops was one of the "most frightening things he had ever come across ".

He criticised chemical company scientists for "not living in the real world".

The former Labour Government minister also told the court that meetings with Tony Blair had left him feeling that the Prime Minister was determined that GM technology would go ahead.

"I think GM is one of the most serious issues Greenpeace has ever tried to tackle," Melchett, a farmer of Hunstanton, Norfolk, told the first trial, in April.

"GM means putting things into the environment which are alive. You cannot recall it . It is one of the most frightening things I have ever come across.

"We don't have a religious objection to it. We would not object to scientists doing experiments in labs which are contained and controlled.

"What worries me is when you use this for crops you are putting it out into the environment on which all human and animal life depends, and we know very little about it.

"It seems to me extraordinary that scientists would think of putting these artificial GM crops out into the open when they know so little about what they are doing."

He said he was concerned that the public debate on GM crops was too scientific and theoretical.

"As a farmer it seems to me things get spread around in all sorts of ways. Mess gets spread around," he added.

"I feel that a lot of the scientists from the chemical companies who are discussing this don't really understand what it is like on a farm."

Lord Melchett added: "I was very disturbed about the idea that people were going to put this out into the environment having apparently not thought of some very simple straightforward things that only a farmer would be able to tell them.

"I think (chemical company scientists) genuinely believe that what had worked in the laboratory would work outside but I don't think they had much idea, some of them, what the real world is actually like.

"In private I have never met a scientist working for anybody... who doesn't admit that there is some risk."

Lord Melchett accepted that the risk of something going wrong might be low. But he added: "It does seem to me that if something does go wrong, the consequences would potentially be very, very serious indeed.

"We are dealing with things that are alive. If something goes wrong with something that is alive you cannot stop it. You cannot call it back."

Lord Melchett said he had met a number of Government ministers and had meetings with Mr Blair in late 1998 and early 1999.

"Last summer I had the feeling there was a number of Government ministers who privately had concerns," he added.

"But the Prime Minister was very determined, with some other Government ministers, to make sure that this technology went ahead.

"My experience with two meetings with Tony Blair was that the Government were not going to rein in or slow down the introduction of these crops into the environment."

Lord Melchett said he and his co-defendants had taken the attack on the maize field with a "great deal of seriousness".

"It was a genuine attempt as far I was concerned to stop and remove this genetic pollution," said Lord Melchett, a minister in the departments of environment, industry and in the Northern Ireland office during the late 1970s.

"I went to the field with the intention of trying to remove any crop and trying to return it to the (owner)."

He added: "It had been reported in Farmers Weekly that the crop was about to pollinate within about seven to 10 days.

"It is at the point of pollination that the genetic pollution of a crop of this sort becomes uncontrollable ."

The people taking part in the demonstration, who wore white boiler suits but made no attempt to hide their identities, were instructed to act on their consciences and not to be violent, he said.

Genetically altered crops are plants whose genes are manipulated to produce characteristics such as resistance to pests.

The Government has sponsored trials designed to find whether such crops pose a threat to the environment, but has not yet approved any for commercial use.

Two of 31 farms signed up to take part in trials have pulled out after coming under local criticism and complaint.

Further trials in 25 fields for corn and oilseed rape, and in 30 others for either sugar or fodder beet, are due to start later this year and last until 2003.

Some 75 farms are needed for a viable study.

A leading food retailer told the court that it was almost impossible to guarantee that products were free of genetically-modified material because of pollen contamination .

Malcolm Walker, chairman of the Iceland frozen food chain, was giving evidence in the case of the 28 Greenpeace supporters.

"It is almost biologically impossible for something to be GM free because of cross-contamination or cross-pollination by birds, bees or whatever," he told the first trial, in April this year.

"The public do not want contamination of any degree."

Mr Walker, a member of Greenpeace for 10 years, said that when Iceland launched a range of food it was careful to label the products "not made with GM materials".

"We were very careful never to say the products were GM free," he said. "It might seem to be splitting hairs but the issue was contamination ."

An official Greenpeace spokesman said it was delighted with the verdict.

He added: "We always said we were acting to protect other crops and the jury clearly believed us."

The prosecution was also ordered to pay costs in excess of 250,000 by Judge David Mellor to cover both trials in which the defendants were accused of causing less than 2,000 of damage to a 6.5 acre field.


20 Sep 00 - GMO - Melchett cleared over GM crop damage

Staff and agencies

Guardian ... Wednesday 20 September 2000


Lord Melchett, the executive director of environmental protest group Greenpeace, and 27 other supporters, were today cleared by a court of causing criminal damage after a field of genetically-modified maize was damaged.

Greenpeace, which hailed the decision as a legal landmark , said that it was delighted by the verdicts returned by a jury at Norwich Crown Court following a two-week trial.

At a trial in April, all 28 were cleared of theft as a result of the same incident, but that jury failed to reach a decision on the criminal damage charge.

"We're delighted by the verdict," said a Greenpeace spokesman. "We always said we were acting to protect other crops and the jury clearly believed us."

And speaking immediately after the verdict, Lord Melchett called on the government to end the GM farm trials "before any further genetic pollution of the environment occurs".

He said: "Greenpeace wanted to remove the GM maize in Norfolk because we believe that GM crops will inevitably contaminate the environment. "The government is currently reviewing separation distances imposed between GM crops and other similar crops - separation distances which we said were completely inadequate when we took action in July 1999."

The charge arose out of a Greenpeace orchestrated attack on a field of genetically-modified maize at Lyng, Norfolk, in August last year.

The 28 defendants admitted destroying the crop, but said that acting to prevent pollen from the genetically-modified maize from polluting neighbouring organic crops and gardens - a defence the jury sympathised with.

Judge David Mellor ruled that the 250,000 costs for the two trials would fall to the prosecution.

Peter Tidey, chief Crown prosecutor for Norfolk, said after the verdict: "We felt this was a matter which should be decided by a jury and we sought a retrial so it could be resolved. There has now been a hearing and a verdict by a jury and we accept the decision of the court."

The jury of seven men and five women took around five hours to reach its verdicts. There were cheers and applause from the defendants as they were read out.

It is thought to be one of the largest groups of defendants tried in the same court in British legal history.

There were too many defendants, 13 of whom work for Greenpeace, to fit into the dock. Other defendants, including Lord Melchett, were seated in various other parts of the court.

Last year, the Archers Radio 4 soap opera carried a storyline which ran parallel to today's trial.

One of the characters, Tommy Archer, was charged with criminal damage after an attack on a field of GM crops and successfully mounted the same defence.


20 Sep 00 - GMO - Greenpeace cleared in GM case

Staff Reporter

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 20 September 2000


Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, and 27 other supporters of the environmental protest group were today found not guilty of causing criminal damage after they trashed a field of genetically modified maize.

Greenpeace, which hailed the decision as a legal landmark , said it was delighted by the verdict returned by a jury at Norwich Crown Court following a two-week trial.

At a trial in April all 28 were cleared of theft as a result of the same incident but that jury failed to reach a verdict on the criminal damage charge. A Greenpeace spokesman said today: "We always said we were acting to protect other crops and the jury clearly believed us."

The charge arose out of a Greenpeace-orchestrated attack on a field of genetically modified maize at Lyng, Norfolk, in August last year. The 28 defendants admitted trashing the field but said they were acting to prevent pollen from the genetically modified maize polluting neighbouring organic crops and gardens.

Judge David Mellor ruled that the prosecution should foot all costs of both trials. This means the taxpayer must pay the estimated 250,000 bill.

Immediately after the verdict, former Labour minister Lord Melchett, 52, of Hunstanton, Norfolk, called on the Government to end the GM farm trials "before any further genetic pollution of the environment occurs". He said: "We believe GM crops will inevitably contaminate the environment. The Government is reviewing separation distances imposed between GM crops and other similar crops - distances which we said were completely inadequate when we took action in 1999."

He told the court he believed genetic modification of crops was one of the "most frightening things he had ever come across " and that meetings with Tony Blair left him feeling the Prime Minister was determined GM technology would go ahead.


12 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops 'good for wildlife and yield'

Tim Radford, science editor

Guardian ... Tuesday 12 September 2000


A new generation of genetically modified crops could be a key to richer wildlife and efficient food production on British farms, a leading scientist said last night.

Sir John Beringer, the dean of science at Bristol University, was until last year chairman of the government's advisory committee on releases into the environment. He told the British Association for the Advancement of Science festival in London that the presence of more songbirds on British farms would depend on encouraging the survival of more weeds and insects.

Many British farmland birds have been in long-term decline, and a number of British wild plants have begun to vanish because of new farming practices. But Prof Beringer said with new thinking, 10% or 20% of the crop could be weeds and farmers could still have a good yield.

"Perversely the only safe way I can think of doing that is to breed herbicide tolerant crops which would enable you to use herbicides as little as possible," he said

"We also need to reduce the use of pesticides to kill insects, because insects are food for birds," he said.

"We can do this by incentives for farmers to allow more insects to occur. We could do it by stopping the use of insecticides, which would be largely organic farming."

The trouble with a total ban was that insects could get completely out of control. But he believed that by genetic manipulation, plants could be made insect resistant - but only express that resistance when they were heavily infested.

"We have to be thinking about how to have more plants and more insects in crops to provide diversity and food for wildlife," he said.

"I think we have to stop ploughing if we possibly can - and that is a serious problem for organic farming - because we should leave as many plants in the ground for as long as possible."

Farmers also had to reduce the amounts of fertilisers they used, because many weeds could not compete with well-nourished crops. This could be done by breeding, or engineering genes that would enable crops to "fix" nitrogen from the air, rather than from fertiliser.

"We have got to increase the amount of wildlife because we want it... but it has to be done in a way in which farmers can survive and produce food reasonably cheaply and in large quantities," he said.

"I think we have to consider, whether we like it or not, that genetic engineering may actually have some solutions, if we look at it sensibly."

He was not surprised at resistance so far to GM crops, he said. "The presentation, to date, has been absurd.

"Herbicide-tolerant crops have been introduced on the basis that you can control weeds, which by definition for most people implies eliminating them all.

"A more rational and intelligent introduction of the crops would have been to say: here is a way in which you can actually let weeds grow. And if they become a serious problem, you can get rid of them."


09 Sep 00 - GMO - Fruit could deliver anti-tooth decay protein

By Steve Connor

Independent ... Saturday 9 September 2000


A bowl of strawberries might one day be good for your teeth if scientists succeed in a plan to introduce an agent that can fight tooth decay.

Horticultural researchers are working with dental scientists to develop fruits that contain a small synthetic protein that prevents certain bacteria from sticking to teeth.

David James, professor of plant biotechnology at Horticultural Research International in East Malling, Kent, told the meeting that a toothfriendly fruit is one aim of a collaborative research project with scientists at Guy's Hospital in London.

Tooth decay is caused by a single bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, one of 200 microbes that live in the mouth. Scientists at Guy's have designed a peptide protein that acts as a "vaccine" by blocking the adhesive mechanism that anchors the bacterium to the sticky plaque coating the teeth. It leaves other, potentially beneficial, bacteria untouched. Professor James said: "It is a novel strategy and probably has wider implications in other disease. Instead of killing bacteria with antibiotics, you actually identify receptor sites on the bacteria you target and produce a peptide that prevents the bacteria from sticking to the sites they normally stick to.

"Our idea in the longer term is to have a means of delivery that involves a raw product. It can't be a processed product, otherwise the protein would be destroyed."

Clinical trials involving the coating of teeth with the antibacterial protein show that it can retain an effect for up to 80 days, but the problem is to find a way of delivering the agent in a product people can use, Professor James said.

"One possibility is to derive products from it, such as a mouthwash, for example, because [existing] mouthwashes are known to be totally ineffective. They kill all bacteria in the mouth, although only one bacterium causes tooth decay.

"These products... would have to be regarded as pharmaceutical products and would need the appropriate regulation and safety testing. What we don't know is how much we can deliver and how much is actually needed," he said.

"Fruits don't normally contain much protein, so that could be one of our problems. To get the amounts we need is one of the big targets for the future."


09 Sep 00 - GMO - GM apple a day may protect teeth

Tim Radford

Guardian ... Saturday 9 September 2000


A daily, genetically modified apple could one day put dentists out of a job. Scientists in Kent are planning to convert apples and strawberries into antibacterial treatments that would protect against tooth decay.

Teeth decay occurs because a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans sticks to the tooth surface in a plaque, and begins eating away at the enamel. David James of Horticulture Research International at East Malling told the British Association science festival yesterday that he and colleagues were working with scientists at Guy's hospital on a new peptide - a form of protein - that did not kill the germs, but prevented them from sticking to the plaque.

If a gene that made the protein were engineered into fruit, it could be one of the "magic bullets" in the form of fruit and vegetables in tomorrow's armoury of health care.

"The problem they have is, how do you deliver this to the consumer?" Professor James said. "Obviously you could make it as a pharmaceutical product.

"But our idea in the longer term is to have a means of delivery that involves a raw product. It can't be a processed product because the protein would be destroyed.

There were other reasons for genetically modifying orchards. English apple varieties were under threat from imports, and 30% of Kent's orchards had disappeared in the past five years. East Malling scientists hoped to extend the commercial storage life of apples and pears.

Growers used chemicals to "dwarf" orchard trees to make fruit easier to pick but gene engineers could do the job better. Technology could also produce strawberries that could resist botrytis, a fungus that threatens each year's crop. The first target for a GM British fruit could be the Bramley cooking apple: its pollen is sterile , so there would be no danger of cross pollination.

Dr Rosemary Collier of HRI told the conference she had been looking at ways of protecting vegetables from aphid attack.

The currant-lettuce aphid wintered on currant bushes and in summer was attracted by scent to land on lettuces. She and a colleague were planning to release volatile chemicals that would make the summer lettuces smell like currants - and put the little predator off the scent.


09 Sep 00 - GMO - GM apple will keep dentist away

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

Times ... Saturday 9 September 2000


An apple a day may soon keep the dentist away: British scientists are genetically engineering fruit to protect against tooth decay.

A gene for a peptide protein discovered by immunologists at Guy's Hospital in London is to be added to strawberries and apples by biotechnologists at the International Institute of Horticultural Research in Kent. That would create a food that prevents dental caries, it was announced yesterday at the British Association for the Advancement of Science festival in London.

The peptide works by controlling the growth of streptococcus mutans, the bacteria that cause tooth decay. It stops the microbes from binding to the tooth, preventing dental caries for up to 80 days at a time without using antibiotics which also kill 200 other species of mouth bacteria that cause no harm, and which promote the development of resistant "superbugs".

David James, professor of plant biotechnology at the institute, said genetically modified fruit would be an ideal method of delivering the peptide, particularly to children.

The apple orchards of the Garden of England will die out within the next two decades if British farmers are not allowed to use genetically modified trees, the association was told.

Apple farmers in Kent and Herefordshire will be driven out of business by foreign competitors who already produce cheaper fruit, unless they are free to take advantage of the benefits of GM technology, Professor James told the association.


07 Sep 00 - GMO - Princess calls for open mind on GM

By Roger Highfield, David Derbyshire and Robert Uhlig

Telegraph ... Thursday 7 September 2000


The House of Windsor was still divided over scientific issues yesterday after the Princess Royal called for an open mind on genetically modified foods and therapeutic cloning. She also backed the use of GM animals in research.

Earlier this year Prince Philip defended GM technology, which put him at odds with the Prince of Wales, who warned that the consequences of GM were "potentially disastrous ".

When it came to genetic engineering, Princess Anne said in her presidential address to the British Association science festival in London that there was "great potential for improving people's lives". She cited varieties of GM rice that had been enriched with iron and the precursors of vitamin A, which could play a role in compensating for deficient Third World diets.

But she was careful to separate the need for scientific research on genetic engineering, which she believed "has to be encouraged", with appropriate safeguards, from each application of that research, which depended on balancing risks against benefits .

She stressed that she was a sceptic. "I need to be convinced that what is possible, is necessary." Genetic engineering should not be tried for trivial gains, for example. Food was possibly the most important international issue, she said.

But despite concern over GM and depleted fish stocks, for the first time in history the overfed numerically equalled the underfed. It remained open to question whether technology could ever provide people in developed and underdeveloped countries with sufficient nutritious food.

In the case of therapeutic cloning - the cloning of early embryos to grow tissue for repairs - she said that the benefits for patients were a long way off. Nonetheless, she said it was important to clone cells in the laboratory, for example, to develop new treatments.

She declined to give her own opinion on a proposal to allow research using cloned embryos, which will be the subject of a free vote in Parliament later this year. The number of GM animals used for research was increasing. However, without human volunteers, the Princess said that she could see little alternative to the use of animals.

"Until somebody comes up with a load of human volunteers prepared to undergo whatever testing is deemed necessary, I don't really have a problem with animals being used. In many cases there is no real option." The public was "going to have to work slightly harder at getting to grips with the issues of modern farming".


06 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops 'worse than N-waste'

Paul Kelso

Guardian ... Wednesday 6 September 2000


Genetically modified crops pose a greater threat to the environment than nuclear waste or chemical pollution , the executive director of Greenpeace told a court yesterday.

Lord Melchett, head of Greenpeace UK, was speaking on the second day of a retrial at Norwich crown court in which he and 27 others are charged with causing criminal damage to a farm scale trial of genetically modified herbicide resistant forage maize.

Questioned by Owen Davies QC, defending, Lord Melchett said that he thought genetic modification represented the most serious threat to the environment.

"Because it is alive it's not like chemical pollution which you can clean up or even nuclear waste. It might take thousands of years, as in the case of Chernobyl, but it will eventually disappear. GM, if it gets into the environment in a way that causes a problem is probably impossible to stop or recall.

"The other element is that it is capable of going everywhere. Chernobyl was contained to a large area of Europe including Britain but it could not go all over the world. GM because it's alive can... and could affect generations to come . You can't sweep it up, pull it in, it has not got strings attached."

All 28 defendants deny the charges, which arose from action at a field at Lyng, Norfolk, last July, claiming they acted to protect other crops from imminent contamination by GM pollen. At the original trial they were cleared of theft but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the criminal damage charges.

Lord Melchett, 52, said the group had intended to uproot six acres of maize and return it to its owner Agr-Evo (now Aventis) at its headquarters in Kings Lynn.

"I believe the crop when it flowered would release GM material widely into the environment around the field and further afield.

"When that was released it would cause damage to other agriculture, organic crops and honey, conventional crops, soil and wildlife . Once that GM material was released it was alive and it would remain alive and continue to spread and would be unstoppable ."

Lord Melchett denied the attack on the field was a publicity stunt and said they had acted because the danger of contamination was imminent . He said he was horrified to learn that at the conclusion of the trial the GM maize had been ploughed back into the soil rather than removed.

"It never crossed my mind that in July 1999 they [Agr-Evo] would simply spread the stuff and plough it in. I was horrified, it seems very irresponsible to me. It was obviously the cheapest method but the most dangerous I can imagine as a farmer."

William Brigham, the owner of the land on which the crops were being grown, had given an interview to Farmers Weekly in which he said the GM maize was about to flower releasing its pollen.

"We realised that if we were to protect the environment we would have to move in the next few days," said Lord Melchett.

The trial continues today.


05 Sep 00 - GMO - GM field 'damaged to attract publicity' to protest

Paul Kelso

Guardian ... Tuesday 5 September 2000


Volunteers led by Lord Melchett wore suits with Greenpeace logo, arranged for video to be made and expected to be caught, jury told.

A group of 28 Greenpeace volunteers who destroyed part of a field of genetically modified maize last summer did so to attract publicity to their cause, a court heard yesterday.

The volunteers, led by Lord Melchett, executive director of the environmental movement, fully expected to be apprehended when they entered a field at Walnut Tree Farm at Lyng, near Dereham, Norfolk, in July 1999 and began destroying the crop, a jury at Norwich crown court was told.

All 28 volunteers, 14 of whom worked for Greenpeace, were wearing white suits with the Greenpeace logo on the back, and had arranged for a video to be taken of the attack.

"The taking of the video was of course to give publicity to their cause. When the public watched the video on the TV news there would be no doubt as to who the culprits were," said John Farmer QC who was opening the case for the prosecution on the first day of a retrial.

At the original trial in April the 28 were cleared of charges of theft but the jury was not able to reach a verdict on the criminal damage charges after seven and a half hours of deliberation. All 28 defendants pleaded not guilty and claimed they acted to save other crops that were in danger of contamination by pollen from the GM maize.

The six and a half acre crop was part of a farm trial of GM maize on land owned by William Brigham. The group gathered at Mr Brigham's farm shortly before 5am and brought a tractor, a tipper truck, and a cutting device.

Their intention was to uproot the maize, put it in bags and dump it outside the headquarters of Agr-Evo Ltd (now called Aventis), the biotechnology company responsible for developing the GM herbicide resistant maize, said Mr Farmer.

The group cut a chain to gain access to the field of maize then replaced it with a padlock to slow down anyone attempting to stop them. They then began uprooting the crop. Shortly afterwards Mr Brigham arrived having learned of the group's plans and the police were called. All 28 were arrested and charged.

"The growing of that crop by Mr Brigham was a perfectly lawful activity and the prosecution say to destroy it was unlawful because it's unlawful to destroy other people's property," said Mr Farmer.

"To go on someone else's land because you have a difference of opinion is in no way reasonable. If you lose the argument, to go out and destroy is not reasonable in a democratic country. What's really behind this is not concern for property but to advance the cause for publicity."

Before the attack on Mr Brigham's farm Lord Melchett, a former Labour peer who owns an organic farm in Norfolk, wrote to Mr Brigham encouraging him to remove the maize before it flowered and released pollen that might contaminate other crops, the court heard.

"I do hope that in all the circumstances you will see the need for this crop to be removed before flowering," he wrote in the letter which was read to the jury of five women and seven men.

"It doesn't say that if you don't do it, myself and others will come down to do it" said Mr Farmer.

The jury also heard Judith Jordan, product development manager at Aventis, who told the court that the firm had not consulted local people before the GM maize was planted . Forty eight farm-scale trials of GM crops began this summer and a further 25 are planned for the autumn.

Judge David Mellor warned the jury: "It is not about whether GM crops are a good thing for the environment or a bad thing. It is for you to listen to the evidence and reach honest conclusions as to the facts."

The trial continues today.

The 28 on trial are:

Adrian O'Neil, 26, Beverley, East Yorkshire.

Alastair Beveridge, 31, Aberdeen.

Andrew McParland, 34, Epsom, Surrey.

Andy Tait, 29, Highbury, north London.

Brenda Ramsey, 34, Leytonstone, east London.

Chris Holden, 22, Tottenham, north London.

Emma Hargreaves, 29, Tooting, south London.

Emma Protz, 28, Enfield, north London.

Iain McSeveny, 37, Highbury, north London.

Jacky Westwood, 42, Mexborough, South Yorkshire.

Jo Melzack, 52, Withington, Manchester.

Keith Dawson, 27, Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Lisa Weatherley, 31, Chessington, Surrey.

Malcolm Carroll, 44, Stafford.

Margaret Weaver, 44, Sandhurst, Berkshire.

Martin Porter, 30, Glossop, Derbyshire.

Michael Uwins, 54, Wymondham, Norfolk.

Mick Waldram, 39, Coalville, Leicestershire.

Nicola Cook, 32, Diss, Norfolk.

Paul Belloti, 57, London.

Peter Melchett, 52, Hunstanton, Norfolk.

Rachel Murray, 27, Highbury, north London.

Simon Hackin, 34, Edinburgh.

Simon Bowens, 33, Guisley, Leeds.

Spencer Cooke, 32, Bradwell, Hope Valley, Derbyshire.

Stokely Webster, 29, London.

Tim Copley, 42, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

Tim Hewke, 40, Lower Clapton, east London.


05 Sep 00 - GMO - Attack on GM field 'was for publicity'

By Laura Peek

Times ... Tuesday 5 September 2000


Lord Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, and 27 other supporters of the group caused criminal damage when they attacked a field of genetically modified crops, a jury was told yesterday.

The attack on the GM maize trial at Walnut Tree Farm at Lyng, Norfolk, in July 1999, was designed to "advance the cause", Norwich Crown Court was told.

John Farmer, for the prosecution, said that the campaigners were not concerned about the effect on nearby land. He said that the defendants, who all deny criminal damage, wore white suits with Greenpeace written across the back. Greenpeace also arranged for the attack to be videotaped and the defendants knew that they would not be able to remove all of the crop before the police arrived. "What is really behind this is not a concern for any individual property, but it is to advance the cause." Mr Farmer said.

The 28 defendants accepted that they destroyed the crop but argued that they were acting out of necessity to prevent neighbouring property, organic crops and gardens, being damaged by pollen from the GM maize .

Mr Farmer told jurors that it was not their job to decide the rights and wrongs of the debate about GM crops but to decide whether the defendants were guilty of causing criminal damage.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.">

05 Sep 00 - GMO - Greenpeace activists face GM crop retrial

Press Association

Telegraph ... Tuesday 5 September 2000


Lord Melchett, 52, the executive director of Greenpeace, and 27 other supporters of the environmental protest group went on trial yesterday for the second time accused of causing criminal damage to a field of genetically modified crops.

They were arrested during a protest at a farm trial of GM maize in Lyng, Norfolk, in July last year. Judge David Mellor told the jury at Norwich Crown Court: "It is not about whether GM crops are a good thing for the environment or a bad thing. It is for you to listen to the evidence and reach honest conclusions as to the facts."

In April, a different jury was unable to reach a verdict following a two-week trial at Norwich. John Farmer, prosecuting, said the reason for the attack was to gain publicity - not because all 28 were concerned about the effect the crop could have on nearby land.

He said the defendants, who all deny criminal damage, wore white suits with the word Greenpeace written across the back to make it clear who they were representing. Greenpeace also arranged for the attack to be filmed and the defendants knew they would not be able to remove all of the crop before they were interrupted by police.

Mr Farmer said: "What is really behind this is not a concern for any individual property but it is to advance the cause - to advance it by means of publicity. The growing of the crop was a perfectly lawful activity. The prosecution say to destroy it was unlawful. It is unlawful to destroy other people's property."

He said the 28 defendants accepted that they destroyed the crop but argued that they were acting out of necessity to prevent neighbouring property being damaged by GM pollen from the maize. Mr Farmer told the jurors: "This is a case in which it will not be necessary to get absorbed in the science and scientific opinions."

The case continues.


05 Sep 00 - GMO - Lord Melchett and company back in the dock

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

Independent ... Tuesday 5 September 2000


Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace , and 27 supporters of the environmental campaign group went on trial for a second time yesterday, charged with criminally damaging a field of genetically modified crops.

The defendants attacked a farm-scale trial of GM maize at Walnut Tree Farm at Lyng, near Dereham, Norfolk, in July 1999, a jury at Norwich Crown Court was told. Their aim was to "advance their cause" of anti-GM action, said John Farmer, for the prosecution. The retrial is expected to last two weeks.

At a hearing at Norwich in April, a jury could not agree a verdict on the criminal damage charge, although the defendants were cleared of theft of the crops. The Greenpeace 28 are again denying criminal damage.

Mr Farmer told jurors it was not their job to decide the rights and wrongs of the debate on genetically modified crops but to decide whether the defendants were guilty of causing criminal damage. "This is a case in which it will not be necessary to get absorbed in the science and scientific opinions," he said. "You will all be aware there are strong arguments on both sides. But we are not here to decide the science."

He said the reason for the attack was to gain publicity, not because all 28 were concerned, as they claimed, about the effect the GM plants could have on other crops on nearby land.

The defendants, who all deny criminal damage, had worn white boiler-suits with the word Greenpeace across the back to make it clear who they were representing, he said. Greenpeace also arranged for the attack to be videoed, and the defendants knew they would not be able to remove all of the crop before they were interrupted by police.

"What is really behind this is not a concern for any individual property but to advance the cause - to advance it by means of publicity," Mr Farmer said. "The growing of the crop... was a perfectly lawful activity. The prosecution say to destroy it was unlawful. It is unlawful to destroy other people's property."

The GM crop trial was being conducted by the multinational agrochemical company Agr-Evo, which has its headquarters in Berlin.

Mr Farmer said the 28 defendants agreed they destroyed the crop but claimed they were acting out of necessity to prevent neighbouring organic crops and gardens being damaged by GM pollen from the maize, which was about to flower. He said the defendants did not have to prove such a belief was right, merely that it was honestly held.

Owen Davies QC, for all 28 defendants, said since the last Greenpeace trial in April, a crop of GM rape from Canada had contaminated other plant seed in Germany and France.

The Government had been aware of the contamination while the first trial was on, although it had not made the information public until May, he said.

Judith Jordan, product development manager for Aventis, as Agr-Evo is now called, said she had known of the contamination before the information was made public, but did not know of it when she gave evidence at the first trial.

Mr Davies said: "It looks as though there is certainly an issue to be explored about how far pollen can travel." Ms Jordan said she "would not disagree".

The 28 members of Greenpeace on trial for allegedly damaging genetically modified crops are: Adrian O'Neil, 26, of Beverley, East Yorkshire; Alastair Beveridge, 31, of Aberdeen; Andrew McParland, 34, of Epsom, Surrey; Andy Tait, 29, of Highbury, north London; Brenda Ramsey, 34, of Leytonstone, east London; Chris Holden, 22, of Tottenham, north London; Emma Hargreaves, 29, of Tooting, south London; Emma Protz, 28, of Enfield, north London; Iain McSeveny, 37, of Highbury, north London; Jacky Westwood, 42, of Mexborough, South Yorkshire; Jo Melzack, 52, of Withington, Manchester; Keith Dawson, 27, of Stamford, Lincolnshire; Lisa Weatherley, 31, of Chessington, Surrey; Malcolm Carroll, 44, of Stafford, and Margaret Weaver, 44, of Sandhurst, Berkshire.

Others are: Martin Porter, 30, of Glossop, Derbyshire; Michael Uwins, 54, of Wymondham, Norfolk; Mick Waldram, 39, of Coalville, Leicestershire; Nicola Cook, 32, of Diss, Norfolk; Paul Belloti, 57, of London; (Lord) Peter Melchett, 52, of Hunstanton, Norfolk; Rachel Murray, 27, of Highbury, north London; Simon Hackin, 34, of Cowgate, Edinburgh; Simon Bowens, 33, of Guisley, Leeds; Spencer Cooke, 32, of Bradwell, Hope Valley, Derbyshire; Stokely Webster, 29, of London; Tim Copley, 42, of Harpenden, Herts, and Tim Hewke, 40, of Lower Clapton, London.

The trial continues today.


02 Sep 00 - GMO - Organic food no healthier, says "expert"

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Saturday 2 September 2000


Consumers of organic food are wasting their money if they think they are buying something that is safer or more nutritious than conventionally grown food, a leading expert said yesterday.

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Government's Food Standards Agency, said there was no evidence that organic food was healthier than conventional produce. He said in an interview with BBC1's Countryfile programme, to be broadcast tomorrow, that he believed people were getting value for money only if they wished to pay for the holistic approach to farming espoused by organic producers.

(UK Correspondents note: Sir John Krebs, who will be paid 96,000 for a 4 day week, is a noted supporter of GMO crops. He heads up the Food Standards Agency, an organisation with 90% of its staff from MAFF and which is excluded from all the key MAFF agriculture food production committees. Its remit is limited to the downstream delivery of food through the retail chain and excludes production, where the major food issues are)

"They're not getting value for money, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Food Standards Agency, if they think they're buying food with extra nutritional quality or extra safety. We don't have the evidence to support those claims," he said.

Independent scientific tests, commissioned by the BBC, found that conventionally grown carrots were free of pesticides. Scientists at the Eclipse Scientific Group laboratory in Cambridgeshire extensively tested carrots that they had bought anonymously from supermarkets. Three types were examined for pesticide and chemical residues. They were an organic British carrot, an organic carrot from abroad and a conventional carrot.

The tests, for more than 40 different pesticide residues, were negative for all three.


02 Sep 00 - GMO - Sales boom in organic food set to continue

By Cherry Norton, Social Arrairs Editor

Independent ... Saturday 2 September 2000


Watchdog's warning on unverified imported organic produce unlikely to alter shoppers' attitudes to 'healthy' produce

Health-conscious shoppers are driving up sales of organic food by 40 per cent a year, and lack of evidence on whether the food is safer or more nutritious is unlikely to dent the booming industry, consumer and organic organisations said yesterday.

People buy organic produce believing it has fewer chemicals and pesticides so is safer for them and the environment, and one-third of organic buyers think it tastes better, said Harry Hadaway of the Soil Association, which registers organic farmers.

He said evidence from Swiss and Danish scientists suggested organic fruit and vegetables were healthier than conventionally grown produce , but more research was needed.

Tim Lobstein, co-director of the Food Commission, London, said: "The absence of evidence showing it is good for you, does not mean that it isn't. It is the argument they used for BSE and is not valid ."

A survey by Health Which? showed 29 per cent of people ate organic food because they thought it tasted better. But 46 per cent of the 2,000 people questioned said they thought the food contained more vitamins and minerals and 60 per cent believed it was healthier.

Peter Jenkins of the Consumers' Association said: "The Food Standards Agency has a duty to inform consumers, and their research that the food is not necessarily safer or more nutritious backs up our own findings.

"But we have found organic foods contain less pesticides and chemicals , which might be a legitimate reason for eating them despite the fact that this doesn't mean they are healthier," he said.

In the past two years, the demand for organic produce has grown at such a rate that British organic farmers cannot keep up with shoppers' wishes. Nearly 80 per cent of the organic produce in shops is imported.

This has raised issues of regulation because, although organic food labelling is well-policed in Britain, imported products present more risks.

The United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards, an arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has a permanent staff of four who oversee six organisations in the UK that issue the licences needed to display the label "organic".

The Soil Association (SA) and the Organic Farmers and Growers are the largest of these and they admit import regulation is haphazard because many farms work cooperatively, making inspection of each one difficult.

Sir John Krebs, the FSA chief, said in his damning criticism of the safety and nutritional aspects of organic produce: "Another point we should make is that the organic standards in the UK are extremely high standards but they're not necessarily the same standards applied in the rest of the world and, of course, much of our organic food is imported and I think consumers should be aware of that."

Even in Britain standards might not be everything consumers expect. SA regulations allow farmers to give chickens 20 per cent non-organic feed and still call them organic.

And "Organic" processed food can carry up to 5 per cent of non-organic agricultural ingredients.

The National Farmers' Union warned that unless additional support was offered the number of people applying to convert to organic farming in Britain would fall, after several years of steady growth, despite rising demand. The latest figures show 3 per cent of agricultural land in Britain is organic, lower than many other countries in Europe.

Research has shown that although only 2 per cent of consumers say they always try to eat organic, 29 per cent are now replacing at least some of their staple foods with organic alternatives .

All the main supermarkets offer extensive ranges of organic foods from jam to gin and vodka, as well as staples such as bread, milk, cheese, yoghurt and pasta.

Yesterday Asda announced a 1m investment in a new range of organic products and now offers more than 400 different ones. Waitrose offers the largest range with more than 1,000, and defends the higher prices by saying it needs to encourage more farmers to go organic and will not be able to do that if it forces down the price it pays them.

Tesco offers more than 700 organic products and was unrepentant about expanding its lines. "We have seen sales of organics double year on year over the last three years ," said Simon Soffe of Tesco. "One of the main reasons our customers buy organic is because of concern about the environment.

"Organic produce does use less chemicals and pesticides . Buying organic is a personal choice and one which our customers should be allowedto make."


02 Sep 00 - GMO - Food chief appointed to rebuild public confidence

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor

Independent ... Saturday 2 September 2000


Professor Sir John Krebs is a scientist to his fingertips. His background is in the apparently arcane field of behavioural ecology - that is, how behaviour is the result of natural selection.

It might be a useful grounding in the task he faces as the chairman of the independent Food Standards Agency, set up by the Labour Government in reponse to the collapse in consumer confidence that followed the BSE crisis .

His role is to alter the behaviour of people inside and outside government, first by persuading those inside to view food safety as a consumer issue; and to persuade the customer that everything is being done to keep them safe. He also has to make food retailers and manufacturers obey the law, perhaps a mightier task.

Sir John, 55, was appointed to head the new agency in January. With a 96,000 annual salary, 130m first-year budget and a four-day week, Sir John says he intends to improve the "already high standards" of food safety, and "to make sure everyone can have confidence public health is being properly protected". The agency's researchers say people see the food industry as cynically pursuing profits and have a low opinion of politicians' competence and openness on food .

There were critics of his appointment: the Consumers' Association said the government should have appointed a "strong, credible, consumer chair", and Tim Lang, professor of food policy at Thames Valley University, called his appointment "bizarre ''.

The former head of the National Environment Research Council (where his study of badgers led to a government cull to see whether the animals spread TB to cattle), will have been hard at work behind the scenes. As a fellow of Pembroke College at Oxford, he is known to be quietly stubborn, using sheer intellectual force to drive home his points and win arguments.

Yet the agency has begun to make a difference. For instance, it will introduce a national framework for measuring and enforcing food safety, after a survey it commissioned found nearly half of the 381,617 food outlets inspected had broken its rules in the past year.


02 Sep 00 - GMO - Organic food 'is a waste of money'

Staff Reporter

Independent ... Saturday 2 September 2000


'Natural' produce is no more safe or nutritious than conventional fare, Government's Food Standards Agency reports

Organic food is neither safer nor more nutritious than conventionally grown food and people are wasting their money by paying a premium for it, the head of the Food Standards Agency said yesterday.

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the government-appointed body, said there was no evidence that organic food was healthier than conventionally grown produce (UK Correspondents note: in the same way that there was no evidence that BSE was a threat to human health from 1984 to 1996?) . He said he believed that people were only getting value for money if they wished to pay for the holistic approach to farming.

"They're not getting value for money, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Food Standards Agency, if they think they're buying food with extra nutritional quality or extra safety. We don't have the evidence to support those claims," he said.

Environmental and organic organisations said they were "appalled " by Sir John's comments, who they believed was "out of touch" with consumers and failing to inform himself properly about organic food.

In Britain sales of organic food are soaring by 40 per cent a year. The projected organic food sales for this year are 546m and expected to reach more than 1bn by 2002. Customers pay an average of 70 per cent more for organic produce than the ordinary equivalents.

Sir John said he thought the market was booming because people were seduced by an image of healthy and nutritious products. "I think the organic industry relies on image and that image is one that many consumers clearly want to sign up to," he said.

"However, I do think they should be aware of what they're getting when they pay quite a substantial premium in the shops," he said in an interview with the BBC's Countryfile programme, to be broadcast tomorrow.

Harry Hadaway, a spokesman for the Soil Association, a standards setterwhich registers organic farmers, said: "We are deeply concerned that Sir John Krebs of the FSA is failing to inform himself and be objective in the on-going national food debate.

"As a historic supporter of genetically modified foods we feel Sir John continues not to represent the wishes of the British consumers , who have made it clear that they reject chemical farming and GM food , due to the growing evidence of environmental and health impacts of this type of food production."

Independent scientific tests, commissioned by the BBC, found conventionally grown carrots free of pesticides. Scientists at the Eclipse Scientific Group laboratory in Cambridgeshire extensively tested carrots bought anonymously from supermarkets.

An organic British carrot, an organic carrot from abroad and a conventionally grown carrot were examined for more than 40 pesticide residues. The tests were negative for all three.

Nigel Gillis, of Eclipse, said: "I think the public will be very surprised. Their perception of organic carrots is that they have no pesticides in and conventional carrots are riddled with them. We've shown... that that's not the case."

This latest research contradicts previous evidence by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's working party on pesticide residues which showed in 1998 that 26 per cent of foods tested contained pesticide residues, and 1.3 per cent contained residues above legal levels.

Even organic carrots were found to contain residues, albeit at levels 10 times lower than maximum level allowed in non-organic vegetables.

Sandra Bell, real food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the group was "appalled " that Sir John had launched this attack. "Organic food avoids synthetic pesticides, the routine use of antibiotics and genetically modified ingredient ," she said.


02 Sep 00 - GMO - Supermarkets full of choice - by staying 'inorganic'

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent ... Saturday 2 September 2000


Organic farming began as an ideology in the 1920s with the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who wanted to capture "cosmic forces" through moonlight and the mystic qualities of soil. He saw the purified nature of artificial fertilisers as an abomination, whereas the stench of manure was something quite spiritual.

Organic food has since become inextricably linked with all that is good, wholesome and safe in life. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that organic food is any more nutritious than its "inorganic" cousin. Meanwhile, there is abundant data to link some of the worst cases of poisoning with food produced by traditional, organic methods.

The very word "organic" is synonymous with health and well-being, when in fact it merely means that the produce is derived from living organisms. Organic chemistry is therefore about carbon-containing substances produced by animals and plants. Inorganic chemicals lack a carbon component but can be just as natural as organic chemicals.

Even organic food is rich in inorganic toxins. Every day we each eat about a quarter of a teaspoon of chemicals that are known to have a potential ability to cause cancer. Something near 99.99 per cent of these toxins, however, are quite natural and are produced by the crops we grow as a form of chemical defence against insects and other pests.

Spreading manure on a field is good farming practice and improves soil structure but it also carries a greater risk of food poisoning than spraying with the recommended amounts of agrochemicals. One of the most dangerous organisms that can contaminate food is E.coli 0157, which lives happily in the gut of many farmyard animals. Several outbreaks of E.coli 0157, some causing the deaths of children, have been linked with organic strawberries, lettuce and home-made organic goats' cheese.

Many organic products, such as nuts, also carry a higher risk of being contaminated with other toxins, such as that produced by a fungus called aspergillus. This poison, called aflatoxin, kills many hundreds of people in the world each year. It is also one the most potent carcinogens in nature.

The abundance and variety of food we can buy on supermarket shelves owes little to organic farming methods, and a lot to the artificial chemicals available to farmers. We all want cheap food but we also have to realise there is a price attached. Modern farming methods have produced the safest, most nutritious food in history yet it does so at the expense of the wildlife in the countryside.

Sir John Krebs is right about organic food being a rip-off. As an expert on biodiversity, and the effects of agricultural intensification on wildlife, he also knows what the real costs are of us all wanting our cake and eating it.


01 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops 'could put bird life in jeopardy'

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent ... Friday 1 September 2000


Wild birds on British farmland could be devastated by the introduction of genetically modified crops , a theoretical study of the effects on the skylark of GM sugar beet suggests.

Scientists used a computer model to predict the impact the beet would have on the amount of food available to a species already threatened by intense agriculture. They found the strong herbicides used with the GM crop could be so efficient at controlling weeds that there would be few wild seeds left for skylarks to feed on.

The scientists, led by Andrew Watkinson from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, say the overall impact of growing herbicide-resistant crops such as GM sugar beet will depend on which farms grow the plants.

If the use of herbicide-resistant crops is restricted to large, intensively managed farms, which have few weeds, the effect will be minor. If they are used more widely by farmers who have until then tolerated more weeds, the impact is likely to be more severe, the report in the journal Science says.

The Government has introduced a moratorium on the commercial introduction of GM crops until field trials designed to assess the impact on wildlife are complete. Dr Watkinson says: "The trials will be valuable, but they will not tell us what will happen to bird populations. They are done on too small a scale."

"One considerable advantage of the methodology we adopted is that it enables us to make predictions now rather than having to wait for the results of a three-year trial."

Farmers growing herbicide-resistant crops will be able to spray weedkillers with a wider effect than those in use today. But that will lead to further intensification, the scientists say. "Although, in some senses, the introduction of GM crops may be no different than the introduction of any other technology that leads to further intensification of agriculture, this new technology might offer a uniquely rapid increase in intensification.".

Already, changes in farming practice have resulted in serious declines in the numbers of wild birds , some of which have fallen by up to 90 per cent since the Second World War. Dr Watkinson says: "It seems likely the widespread introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops will result in further declines for many farmland birds unless other measures are taken."

The computer model indicates a crucial factor in deciding whether herbicide resist- ance affected wild birds was whether farmers left enough weeds in their smaller fields.

Although the model looked only at the interaction of three species - the sugar beet, the skylark and a weed called fat hen on which the birds feed - the scientists believe it could be applied to other crops, weeds and birds.

Scientists not involved in the project say the computer model is welcome, but it may have overrated the effectiveness of the weedkiller commonly used on GM sugar beet. American studies suggest the herbicide is not as effective on weeds as the scientists supposed.

* The multinational biotech company Aventis CropScience is seeking government permission to feed cattle GM maize , grown in British field trials. Aventis says it wants to show GM feed is safe for animals.


01 Sep 00 - GMO - GM crops could drive away birds

Staff Reporter

Times ... Friday 1 September 2000


Genetically modified crops that are resistant to herbicide could lead to declining populations of farmland birds by removing a major source of food , British researchers claim today (Mark Henderson writes).

Skylarks , linnets , yellowhammers and tree sparrows could all be affected by widespread planting of GM sugar beet because the number of weed seeds in the fields could be cut by as much as 90 per cent, according to a study published today in Science. The adverse effects would be greatest if the GM crops were planted in fields that were not intensively farmed, the team, led by Andrew Watkinson of the University of East Anglia, said.

The use of herbicide-tolerant sugar beet on intensive farms - where it is most likely to be planted - would not be a big problem, the study found. Seed densities on such farms, which are heavily treated with herbicide, are already low and would not fall much further.