Skip to content
for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Fishy GM trial gets go ahead despite new research showing harm to butterflies

Immediate release (25 Apr 2016)

Press contact: Liz O’Neill, 07811 211 404

Farming minster George Eustice has granted consent for a new trial of genetically modified (GM) oil seed, despite new research showing that consumption of the omega 3 oils made by the GM plants can seriously harm butterflies.

The Canadian study was published days after a Government deadline for objections to the trial, but was forwarded to Defra by campaign group GM Freeze. Neither Mr Eustice’s letter of consent nor the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE)’s advice on this application make any mention of the researchers’ finding that feeding “fish oils” to cabbage white butterflies caused them to grow heavier and have a higher frequency of wing deformities.

Liz O’Neill, Director of GM Freeze, believes that the new research is hugely significant.

Farmers might initially welcome the idea of deformed cabbage whites but this is a totally unexpected effect and that should make everyone worry. We have no idea why the omega-3 oils harmed the butterflies in the Canadian study and until we do know, we shouldn’t be genetically engineering plants to produce them.

Defra received fifteen objections to the trial, including one from GM Freeze and nineteen other organisations representing farmers, scientists, campaigners and charities. These detailed a range of concerns including the potential for unexpected effects, now dramatically demonstrated by the Canadian study.


Media enquiries to: Liz O’Neill, Director of GM Freeze on or 07811 211 404.

The Soil Association press office is also able to take media enquiries relating to the trial, via Hayley Coristine on or 0117 314 5170.

Details of the consent, ACRE advice and Rothamsted Research’s application for an open air trial of GM “fish oil” camelina can be seen on the Defra website:

The Canadian study:Long-Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Have Developmental Effects on the Crop Pest, the Cabbage White Butterfly was led by Stephanie M Hixson of Ryerson University, Toronto. It was published in PLOS One on 24 March 2016

The Ecologist published an article about the Canadian study on 18 April 2016, including comments from independent scientists.

The multi-agency objection to the camelina trial can be found at It is signed by GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, GM Free Cymru, Soil Association, Organic Growers Alliance, Mums Say No to GMOs, GM Free Dorset, Beyond GM, Unicorn Grocery Ltd, Action Against Allergy, Sevenoaks Friends of the Earth, GM Watch, Organic Research Centre, EcoNexus, Find Your Feet, the Springhead Trust, White Home Farm, Whole Organic Plus, ACE Energy, Shepton Farms Ltd and South Gloucester Friends of the Earth.

GM Freeze is the UK’s umbrella campaign for a moratorium on GM in food and farming. We are working to help create a world in which everyone’s food is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably.