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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

UK Field Trials

Experimental GM crops can be grown in open fields in the UK with permission from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). A list of current applications and consents is published online.

When researchers apply for a new GM field trial there is a brief public consultation. GM Freeze submits evidence to most of these consultations and can help you understand how to get your concerns across. Applications can be made at any time so sign up to our email list to ensure you hear about them in time to act.

GM wheat for burnt toast

man alarmed at burning toastIn August 2021, the UK Government allowed Rothamsted Research  to plant “low acrylamide” GM wheat. The wheat’s DNA has been changed to reduce the production of a chemical that may cause cancer but that is associated with burnt toast rather than sensibly prepared wheat products. Commenting on the decision to allow the release of this highly experimental GMO we said:

It’s hard to understand the thinking that leads GM developers to decide that mutilating the DNA of a staple food crop is a more effective response to the disputed dangers of burnt toast than teaching people how to use a toaster properly.

See our detailed consultation response on behalf of 28 organisations.

Rothamsted Research’s “Fishy” GM camelina trials

Field of Camelina Sativa

Rothamsted Research have been growing various forms of GM camelina in open field trials since 2014. In May 2019 they received consent for another five years of trials, despite not having even declared exactly what genetic modifications will be going into the ground. Commenting when their application went in, we said

Last year Rothamsted Research planted an illegal trial of genome edited plants 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.

See our detailed response to the 2019 trial application, on behalf of 35 different organisations. 

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

In April 2019, the John Innes Centre received permission to plant field trials of GM brassica and wheat.  Lodging an objection before the trials were approved, we commented:

Iron-rich wheat may sound positive but, even if it works, this crop is designed to improve iron levels in white flour. Adding a single nutrient to white sliced bread and doughnuts is no substitute for addressing the barriers that prevent people eating a balanced diet rich in wholegrains and other natural sources of iron.

Brassicas are known for their promiscuity so any escape from the proposed trial could spell disaster for local farmers and growers. This is an early research study that should be conducted in a contained environment. If the John Innes Centre hasn’t got a suitable facility it should invest in one, not carry out experiments in open fields.

See our detailed responses to the GM wheat and GM Brassica trial applications.

A sack of potatoes sat in a ploughed fieldOur comments on GM potato trial consent in 2017:

Defra has signed a regulatory blank cheque in consenting to the planting of experimental potatoes which have not even been analysed in a test tube,much less properly studied under controlled greenhouse conditions

ripe wheat in a fieldOur comments on “improved photosynthesis” GM wheat trial consent in 2017:

World food production already far exceeds the needs of generations to come but people still go hungry. Nobody is starving because of some fundamental flaw with photosynthesis, they are starving because they are poor


Help us do more

GM Freeze’s work opposing field trials is  funded by donations from our supporters.

If you can afford to contribute financially, please give what you can to allow us to make more noise about risky GM field trials.