Coming a cropper

 作者:史胁玻     |      日期:2019-03-07 04:13:05
By Andy Coghlan BRITAIN’s mammoth experiment to test whether genetically modified crops pose a greater hazard to wildlife than conventional varieties has been thrown into disarray. In an embarrassing climbdown, the government has admitted that the latest crops to be sown were planted illegally. If judges now order the crops to be ploughed up, the disruption could seriously delay the four-year, £3.3 million trial. This latest twist to Britain’s GM crop controversy surrounds winter oilseed rape, or canola, produced by the German company AgrEvo and planted at four farms in central England. In March, AgrEvo won consent to plant GM spring oilseed rape as part of the government’s trials. But instead of ordering the company to submit a fresh application to plant the winter crop, as European Union rules require, the government allowed the plantings to go ahead by approving alterations and additions to the spring consent. Peter Roderick, a lawyer with Friends of the Earth, which has campaigned against GM plantings, spotted the infringement and asked the High Court to rule on the matter. Michael Meacher, the environment minister, last week conceded that the GM winter oilseed rape had been illegally planted and announced that the government would not contest the case. Amazingly, this is the third time that the government has been forced to admit to having violated its own rules governing GM crops. Friends of the Earth accuses it of colluding with biotechnology companies to drive the trials forward. “How can people trust the government when they allow the rules to be bent in this way?” Roderick asks. The Cabinet Office, which coordinates government policy on genetic engineering, rejects this charge. “It’s not the government waving this through on the nod,” says a spokeswoman. “It was a mistake by a civil servant.” Friends of the Earth is now considering whether to ask the High Court to order the offending winter crops to be ploughed up. The government says that it would appeal against any such judgment. Whether or not the winter plantings are destroyed, the latest ruling adds to a catalogue of embarrassment for the British government. A year ago, it admitted waiving the procedures under which new crops, both GM and conventional, are supposed to be assessed—not for environmental purposes but for quality and uniqueness—in more than 1200 cases since 1995, including 163 of transgenic plants (New Scientist, 1 August 1998, p 5). More recently, it conceded that it had similarly short-circuited procedures for approving sales of GM and other new varieties of seeds. In both those cases,