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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Proposed GM trial presents new risk to people and wildlife Plants produce wax esters which can cause oily anal discharge if eaten

Immediate release (28 Mar 2018)

Press contact: Liz O'Neill 07811 211 404, liz[at]

Twenty-six organisations including farmers, scientists, retailers and environmentalists today lodged a formal objection to the latest proposed open-air GM field trial by Rothamsted Research.

If granted consent by Defra, the trial will see genetically modified camelina plants grown in open fields at Rothamsted Research’s farms in Hertfordshire and Suffolk.  Similar trials have been running since 2014, but the proposed new trial introduces plants producing wax esters which, if eaten by people, can cause diarrhoea and an involuntary discharge of oil from the anus.

Key points in the objection include the risk that pollen or seed for plants could escape from the trial and impact on people or local wildlife. In addition to the new wax esters, the GM plants will produce omega-3 “fish oils” which were shown in a recent study to cause serious harm to butterflies [1].

The objection identifies a significant amount of information that is missing from the application, including technical details of the genetic modifications themselves and any assessment of the potential impact on farms already growing non-GM camelina in the UK.

Liz O’Neill, Director of umbrella campaign GM Freeze, which coordinated the formal multi-agency objection, said:

Many vital pieces of information are missing from the application and what is included makes it clear that this trial represents an unacceptable risk to people, wildlife and the wider environment. But the problems with this trial also go deeper.

Rothamsted Research started off trying to persuade us that GM camelina would save the oceans but now they’re referring to it as a “chassis” on which they will produce an array of industrial compounds [2]. GM Freeze wants to help create a world in which everyone’s food is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably. This trial would be a step in the opposite direction and should not go ahead.

Objections to the proposed trial can be lodged with Defra until Sunday 8 April. 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.

The application and details of how to object can be viewed online at

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

Signatories to the objection are GM Freeze, the Soil Association, Garden Organic, the Organic Growers Alliance, OF&G, the Organic Research Centre, Shepton Farm, Future Sustainability, ACE Energy, South East Essex Organic Gardeners, the Kindling Trust, Nourish Scotland, The Biodynamic Association, Cardiff Friends of the Earth, The Corner House, The Springhead Trust, Hodmedod, Unicorn Grocery,, Banc Hadau Llambed / Lampeter Seed Library, GM Watch, GeneWatch UK, EcoNexus, Beyond GM, Mums Say No to GMOs, and GM Free Dorset


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

[2] Rothamsted Research press release, GM Field Trial Planned, 21 February 2018