<< see all current actions

Say NO to risky GM potato trial

The Sainsbury Laboratory wants to plant experimental GM potatoes that haven't even been trialled under controlled conditons. Please make your views known in the public consultation which ends on 23 March.

What you can do

Just one year after gaining consent to plant GM blight-resistant potatoes, the Sainsbury Laboratory has applied for permission to plant a series of much more complicated GM potatoes at its farm in Norwich. Defra is considering the application and a public consultation is now open. GM Freeze has submitted a detailed objection on behalf of 33 different organisations, but it is important that other voices speak out against this crop too.

Please send your views to Defra by Thursday 23 March

You can write to:
GM Team, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Area 1C, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR

or email:
gm-regulation@defra.gsi.gov.uk including the application reference number: 17/R29/01 in the email title

Make it clear that you do not want this open air field trial of GM potatoes (ref 17/R29/01) to go ahead and why. 

Show that you care but please be polite and explain your reasons for being opposed to this trial as clearly and reasonably as you can.

potaotes in field

Key points you may like to raise are noted below but please use your own words as much as possible.

Points to include:

  • Most of the potatoes covered by the application have not been created in the lab yet. Defra is being asked to write a blank cheque for whatever the researchers come up with. Instead, the potatoes need to be thoroughly tested under controlled conditions before being planted in an open field.
  • This experiment uses gene-silencing to “switch off” some of the potato’s own genes. This works in a very different way to existing GM and the European Food Safety Authority has not agreed any guidelines for assessing the risks involved. We don’t even know yet what could go wrong so cannot know that these potatoes will not cause harm.
  • These GM potatoes will have up to 32 different genes added, to create many different traits. There has been no investigation into the ways in which these different genes and traits could interact with each other.
  • The potatoes could harm organisms living in the soil. One of the modifications is designed to repel nematodes but we have not been told how it will impact on the other creatures that are essential to creating a healthy soil.
  • The trial could contaminate organic and conventional potato crops. We are told that this risk is very low but it has happened with GM potato trials elsewhere. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (who will be assessing this trial) has said that crop contamination is “an economic issue that is beyond ACRE’s remit”. Surely it must be somebody’s job to safeguard the livelihoods of potato growers and processors?
  • We already have non-GM blight-resistant potatoes and know that the best way to beat a constantly-evolving disease like blight is to plant different types of potatoes alongside each other, rather than encouraging monoculture.
  • Some of the potatoes will be designed to produce less of a potentially-harmful substance called acrylamide, when cooked at high temperatures. However, promoting chips and crisps made with non-browning potatoes as a “healthy” alternative will not be good for public health as they will still contain high levels of fat and salt.