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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Groups Object to New UK GM Trial Plan

Immediate release (26 Mar 2014)

Press contact: Liz O’Neill tel: 0845 217 8992 email:

GM Freeze is leading a coalition of organisations in outlining the scientific and other reasons why the UK Government should say “No” to growing genetically modified (GM) Camelina in Hertfordshire as early as next month. [1]

Rothamsted Research, a publicly-funded agricultural research centre, has applied for permission to plant an open-air trial of GM Camelina Sativa, a relative of oilseed rape, at its farm in Harpenden, Hertfordshire from April 2014.

Raising their objections via a Defra consultation, the campaign groups cited a number of concerns including the possibility of GM seeds and pollen being spread beyond the test site, unintended effects of the GM process itself and the presence of a gene resistant to an important antibiotic.

Perhaps more important than those technical concerns about this particular trial, the groups ask why Rothamsted is bothering with this crop in the first place.

Modified to produce Omega 3 fats similar to those found in some fish oils, the crop was announced to the media in January as a sustainable way to produce feed for fish farms. Many would argue that using precious arable land to grow crops to support intensive fish farming can never be sustainable. Others, including the 2009 Cochrane Review, point out that the health benefits of “fish oils” have been massively over-sold. [2] Even if you reject both of those perspectives, there are already two conventionally-bred plant sources of the same oils available for UK farmers to plant today. [3]

GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill asks:

“What is this trial really all about? The application is riddled with flaws, the trial design has had to be adapted because most of the land they plan to use isn’t even ready this year and conventional plant breeding has beaten them to the prize already.

“We know that the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson strongly favours GM, but rushing a poor trial into the ground just to prove a political point really isn’t going to win the confidence of the British public or strike most people as a good use of public money.”


Notes to editors

[1] GM Freeze, 21 March 2014. Multi-agency objection to Application from Rothamsted Research to release genetically modified camelina, reference 14/R8/01. Submitted by GM Freeze, EcoNexus, Food & Water Europe, GM Free Dorset, the Organic Research Centre, PC & RA Lundgren, the Soil Association and Whole Organic Plus/GM Education

[2] Hooper L, et al, 21 January 2009. “There is not enough evidence to say that people should stop taking rich sources of omega 3 fats, but further high quality trials are needed to confirm the previously suggested protective effect of Omega 3 fats for those at increased cardiovascular risk”. Cochrane Summaries

[3] Omega 3-producing crops Echium and the Ahiflower are already available on the National List maintained by the Plant Variety Rights and Seeds Office.