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Freedom of Information Tribunal To Decide on Contamination Site Secrecy

Advanced notice (3 Dec 2010)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 3410 665

Tribunal hearing:

10am, 6 December 2010

Court Room 5, Audit House, 58, Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DS

GM Freeze have appealed to a First Tier Tribunal under the Environmental Information Regulation (2004) in an attempt to reveal the precise location of a field of oilseed rape contaminated with an unapproved GM trait in Somerset in 2008.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind to deal with such GM contamination.

In December 2008 Defra announced that a field of non-GM oilseed rape grown and harvested in Somerset had become contaminated with a Monsanto GM trait called GT73 at 0.05% (1 seed in 2000). Furthermore, the contamination had spread through cross-pollination to a nearby crop at a level of 0.01% (one seed in 10,000).

GM Freeze were concerned that the contamination could have spread further and therefore asked Defra for the precise location of the crop so that farmers, gardeners and beekeepers in the area could be warned of the potential for contamination and take appropriate action to reduce the risk by taking action to control GM plants. [1]

Defra refused to release the map reference, claiming that it was personal information under the Data Protect Act 1998 and that it was not in the public interest to reveal it against the wishes of the landowner.

GM Freeze appealed this decision to Defra and the appeal was refused. They then appealed the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) who backed Defra’s decision to keep the location secret. The group then decided to ask for a Tribunal before judge, and this will take place on 6 December in London (see above for details).

Commenting on the case Pete Riley of GM freeze said:

This is a significant case. Contamination of crops with GM traits can spread to other people’s land and crops and into honey. Once established it will be hard to remove and could develop into a significant farming and wildlife problem.

GM Freeze believes that the best way to reduce the risk of GM spreading from contaminated crops is to be open and transparent. That is why we are taking this case to the Tribunal on 6 December to attempt to establish the public’s right to know.

ENDs

Notes

[1] For a more detailed briefing on the case GM Freeze click here.