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Pick-and-mix GM crop plans are playing games with regulations Plans for new GM crop trials raise objections from leading environmental and farming organisations

Immediate release (21 Mar 2019)

Press contact Liz O’Neill on 07811 211 404, liz[at]

Thirty-five organisations including some of the UK’s biggest environmental organisations, farmers, scientists, seed distributors and retailers yesterday lodged a formal objection to plans for a new open-air field trial of GM camelina plants at Rothamsted Research’s farms in Hertfordshire and Suffolk.

Citing concerns about missing information in the trial application, Liz O’Neill, Director of umbrella campaign GM Freeze said:

Last year Rothamsted Research planted an illegal trial of genome edited plants [1] and now they are planning a pick-and-mix trial that jumbles up over a hundred different genetic modifications. They are playing games with the regulations and Michael Gove needs to call time before they cause irrevocable damage to the ecosystem.

GM regulations state that those applying for consent to plant GM field trials must provide significant technical detail on the plants that they would like to grow. Rothamsted Research has not done this and is instead seeking permission to grow plants with unidentified combinations from over a hundred different genetic elements.

Missing information isn’t the only worry with the planned field trial, which is part of an ongoing project to grow omega 3 “fish oils” for use in the fish farming industry. Canadian researchers who found that butterfly larvae fed this type of oil suffered significant harm have raised concerns that GM crops of this kind could disrupt the ecosystem [2]. Those objecting to the trial also cite inadequate measures to prevent pollen or seed escape and lack of clarity about the relationship between this proposed trial and others taking place on the same sites.

Objections to the proposed trial can be lodged with Defra until Wednesday 27 March. Details can be found at


For more information, please contact Liz O’Neill on 07811 211 404, liz[at]



GM Freeze is the UK umbrella campaign on GM food, crops and patents.

Rothamsted Research’s application and details of the statutory public consultation can be found at

The fully-referenced multi-agency response can be viewed at

Signatories to the objection are GM Freeze, EcoNexus, GeneWatch UK, the Sustainable Food Trust, OF&G (Organic Farmers and Growers), the Soil Association, the Organic Research Centre, Garden Organic, Biodynamic Association, the Landworkers Alliance, WWOOF UK (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), the Kindling Trust, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Shepton Farm, the Real Seed Catalogue, Banc Hadau Llambed / Lampeter Seed Library, Unicorn Grocery, Hodmedod, ACE Energy, the Springhead Trust, GMWatch, Beyond GM, Mums Say No to GMOs, Future Sustainability, GM Free Dorset, GM Free Somerset, GM Free Cymru, Genetic Engineering Network, Agri-Activism UK, Pro-Natural Food Scotland, South East Essex Organic Gardeners, Cardiff Friends of the Earth, East Dorset Friends of the Earth, Sustainable Dorset/Dorset Agenda 21 and Resurgence Dorset.





Hixson, S.M., Shukla, K., Campbell, L.G., Hallett, R.H., Smith, S.M., Packer, L. & Arts, M.T. 2016. Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have developmental effects on the crop pest, the cabbage white butterfly Pieris rapae. PLoSONE 11:e0152264.


Colombo, S.M., Campbell, L.G., Murphy, E.J., Martin, S.L. & Arts, M.Y. 2018. Potential for novel production of omega-3 long-chain fatty acids by genetically engineered oilseed plants to alter terrestrial ecosystem dynamics. Agricultural Systems 164: 31-37.


MacDonald, C., Colombo, S. & Arts, M.T. 2018. Genetically engineered oil seed crops and novel terrestrial nutrients: ethical considerations. Science and Engineering Ethics doi: 10.1007/s11948-018-0074-9 (Epub ahead of print).