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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Action: Say NO to GM potatoes

If you don’t want new GM potato field trials to go ahead, let the Government know before 2 May

The Sainsbury Laboratory has applied for permission to plant experimental GM potatoes in open fields near Norwich and Cambridge. If you don’t want that to happen, email including the application reference number 22/R29/01 in the subject line of your email.

You can also 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 22/R29/01.

Full details of the application and the public consultation are published on the Defra website. GM Freeze and 27 other organisations have submitted a fully referenced formal objection to the plans, but it is important that they also hear from individuals who share our concerns.

Potatoes harvested in a field

Our tips

  • Make it clear that you are responding to the consultation on application number 22/R29/01 and that you do not want the GM potatoes to be released in an open field trial.
  • Use your own words. The notes below will help you, but please don’t copy and paste as this could lead to your submission being side-lined.
  • Include your credentials if relevant (eg if you grow potatoes, work in the food industry, or if you are a scientist).
  • Be polite and avoid making claims you cannot back up. We can provide detail and references for the points summarised below.
  • Please send us a copy of your submission and any replies you receive.

What’s actually wrong with the planned field trial?

The GM developers behind the latest trial plans have been growing experimental GM potatoes in open fields since 2016. This new application claims to be building on the results of previous trials but no such results have been published or subjected to peer review. They are asking us to take their word for it that the project is making progress and not raising any concerns.

The potato plants have been subjected to a large number of different genetic mutations. This kind of “stacked gene” approach adds significantly to the risk of unexpected interactions, either straight away or much further down the line. As the developers have not published any detailed results from their previous field trials we have no way of knowing if anything unexpected has happened so far.

Some of the changes are made by “silencing” genes rather than adding new ones. There is growing evidence that RNA molecules like the ones used here to “switch off” the target genes in the potatoes can survive digestion. This means that if people were to eat the GM potatoes at some point in the future, the gene silencing RNA could end up in their bloodstream with unpredictable results.

The GM potato plants are resistant to certain herbicides. The Sainsbury Lab say that these traits will only be used to identify the modified plants but if the potatoes ever get grown commercially it will not be possible to stop growers spraying those herbicides repeatedly and causing the kind of environmental harm that has been seen with Roundup Ready GM crops.

The GM potatoes are being engineered to support the processed food industry that contributes hugely to ecosystem collapse and poor health. One of the features of the potatoes in the proposed trial is that they will produce crisps with less acrylamide in them. Cancer Research UK say there is no need to worry about acrylamide in our food but even if you want to reduce your intake it is far better to just eat fewer crisps.

It isn’t possible to guarantee that the GM potatoes are contained within the trial. Anyone who has ever grown potatoes in a garden or allotment knows how much later a stray potato can crop up unplanned. That makes all the other concerns even more of a problem.

Other ways to take action

  • Send a copy of your submission to your MP. You can find their details and send your message at MP won’t have a vote on this trial but the Government has already started dismantling our GMO safeguards with much more to come. It is important to start helping MPs understand the reasons why GMOs have no place in a responsible, fair and sustainable food system.


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.