Defra approves GM potato trial

THE Government has approved a second application from British scientists to plant GM potatoes in a field trial at the University of Leeds.

In effect the researchers have been given the green light to continue their research on a pest resistant potato that started in 2008.

They say the genetic technology, to resist infection by potato cyst nematodes, could save British growers up to £40 million a year.

Dr Peter Urwin, from the University of Leeds, said his first trial on GM potatoes, from 2008 to 2010, had been a success. Buoyed by that success he applied for a new license to continue his trial earlier this year.  

He said the pest resistant potato could be essential if key pesticides are removed from the market under new EU safety regulations.   

Defra gave approval to the trial after a public consultation and an evaluation by an independent expert group the Advisory Committee of Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

ACRE said it was satisfied that the proposed trial will not result in any adverse effect on human health or the environment. 

The harvested GM potatoes will not be used for food or animal feed.

The trial, which will run until 2012, will be protected from vandals by extensive fencing, CCTV and security guards.

Of more than 50 GM crop trials approved by Defra since 2000, only a handful have survived the hands of vandals, making the Leeds potato trial a rare breed.

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