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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Action: Oppose plans to grow GM plants with human genes CLOSED

Mammal genes are copied and added to GM camelina plantsRothamsted Research has applied for permission to plant millions of experimental GM Camelina plants on their farms in Hertfordshire and Suffolk.

The consultation on these shocking plans has now closed but we are keeping this action page open to help people understand our concerns and consider other ways of responding.

GM Freeze has submitted a detailed response on behalf of 21 different organisations, but it is important that Defra also hears from concerned individuals and groups on or before Monday 17 April 2023.

You can email (including the application reference number 23/R8/01 in the subject) or write to GM Team, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Second Floor, Seacole Building, Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF, stating the application reference number 23/R8/01.

Full details of the application and the public consultation are published on the Defra website.

Our tips

  • Make it clear you are responding to the consultation on application number 23/R8/01 and that you do not want the trial to go ahead.
  • Use your own words. The notes below will help you, but don’t copy and paste as this could lead to your submission being side-lined.
  • Include your credentials if relevant (eg if you are a farmer, food producer or scientist) and focus on the one or two points that matter most to you.
  • Be polite and avoid making claims you cannot back up. We can provide references for all of the points listed below.
  • Send a copy of your objection to your MP.
  • Please send us a copy of your submission and any replies you receive.


Marine genes in GM camelina

Reasons to be concerned about this trial

The camelina plants will include synthetic copies of human, cattle, mouse and goat genes. The risks and ethical issues this raises aren’t properly considered in the application and for many people it simply crosses a line so shouldn’t be allowed.

The application doesn’t actually say what will be planted. Instead it lists over 130 different genes that will be combined as the genetic engineers see fit over the next five years. Different genes interact with each other in often unexpected ways so no GM field trial should be considered until it is clear exactly how the plants involved have been changed.

The omega 3 oils produced by these GM plants are not naturally present in the the land-based ecosystem. Canadian scientists fed similar oils to three different land-based insect species and all three of them were significantly affected. This suggests that growing the GM plants may well affect the natural wildlife in the area of the trial.

The camelina plants have also been engineered to produce what the application describes as “milk fats”. There is no discussion in the application of the potential risks this could cause for the many people who are allergic to cow’s milk, or the ways in which it could disrupt the ecosystem.

Some of the GM plants will produce ultra-long polyunsaturated fatty acids for pharmaceutical use. “Pharma” crops should not be grown in open fields – they should be kept in a contained environment like a greenhouse.

More needs to be done to stop seed or pollen with modified genes escaping from the trial. The application doesn’t recognise that camelina is grown in the UK for commercial use and as a cover crop. The trial plan doesn’t manage the risk of GM camelina pollen being spread by wind and insects, including honey bees.

A key aim of this project is to produce omega 3 oils for the fish farming industry. When the first GM camelina trials were planted in 2014 we were told that it wasn’t viable to source the oils directly from the algae that naturally produce them but that is exactly what has happened. EPA and DHA oils are now being produced commercially – and sustainably – from natural marine microalgae. There is no justification for this GM project because those who have chosen to work with nature (rather than trying to overpower it) have got there first.

If the GM camelina is ever approved for commercial use, high quality arable land that could be used to grow food will be turned into an open-air factory producing additives for industrial fish farms and/or pharmaceuticals. That’s not the future we want for our food, or our farms.

Other ways to take action

  • Share your concerns on social media. If you tag @gmfreeze on twitter or post to our Facebook page (/GMFreezeUK) we will help spread the word.
  • If you represent a company, faith group or community organisation that shares your concern about this trial, contact liz[at] to discuss other ways to help.


Help us do more

Work opposing this trial is being funded by donations from our supporters.

If you can afford to contribute financially, please give what you can to allow us to make more noise about risky GM field trials.