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Immediate release (21 Mar 2017)

Regulatory blank cheque for untested GM potatotes?

Press contact: Liz O'Neill liz[at]gmfreeze.org, 07811 211 404

Thirty-three organisations including farmers, scientists, retailers, caterers and environmentalists, have lodged a formal objection to a proposed open air field trial of experimental GM potatoes, describing them as untested, unwanted and unnecessary.

If granted consent by Defra, the trial will see the experimental potatoes planted in an open field at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, despite the fact they have not been tested under controlled conditions. Applications for a “deliberate release” of genetically modified organisms usually include a molecular analysis of the plants or micro-organisms involved to demonstrate that the DNA changes that have occurred are the ones that were intended. However, the Sainsbury Laboratory stated in its application that “most of the transgenic plants described in this application are currently in the transformation pipeline”, ie they do not yet exist.

The research centre already has a trial of GM blight-resistant potatoes running but the proposed new trial involves potatoes which have been genetically engineered to resist blight, reduce browning and repel nematodes all at the same time. Such “stacked traits” significantly increase the risk of unexpected interactions with unpredictable outcomes.

Liz O’Neill, Director of umbrella campaign GM Freeze, which coordinated the objection said:

This application is premature at best. The Sainsbury Lab is asking Defra to sign a regulatory blank cheque by asking for consent to plant experimental potatoes which have not even been analysed in a test tube, much less properly studied under controlled greenhouse conditions.

These potatoes are more complex than any we have seen before, but they are being subjected to a lower level of scrutiny. They could harm soil organisms and contaminate nearby conventional and organic potato crops. There are existing, non-GM solutions to the problems they are designed to address and even McDonalds has said they won’t use the GM potatoes already on sale in the USA.

Objections to the proposed trial can be lodged until Thursday 23 March. Details can be found at www.gmfreeze.org/potato

ENDS

For more information, please contact Liz O’Neill, 07811 211 404, liz[at]gmfreeze.org

NOTES

GM Freeze is the UK umbrella campaign on GM food, crops and patents. GM Freeze is working to create a world in which everyone’s food is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably.

The application and details of how to object can be viewed online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/genetically-modified-organisms-sainsbury-laboratory-17r2901

The multi-agency response can be viewed at http://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/consultation-responses/197/

Signatories to the objection are GM Freeze, the Soil Association, Garden Organic, Organic Research Centre, North London Organic Gardeners, the Organic Growers Alliance, WWOOF UK, Shepton Farm, Whole Organic Plus, South East Essex Organic Gardeners, the Kindling Trust, ACE Energy, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Unicorn Grocery, Loopy Food, The Kitchen, Friends of the Earth (England Wales and Northern Ireland), West Dorset Friends of the Earth, Cardiff Friends of the Earth, South Gloucester Friends of the Earth, Gravesham Friends of the Earth, Welwyn Hatfield Friends of the Earth, Action Against Allergy, the Gaia Foundation, the Springhead Trust, GM Watch, GeneWatch UK, EcoNexus, Beyond GM, Mums Say No to GMOs, GM Free Cymru, GM Free Dorset and GM Free South West.