December 20, 2008
Trials could also be conducted away from the public in the Government’s Porton Down military research site in Salisbury, Wiltshire, it is claimed.
There are currently no GM food trials underway in the country and the more than 50 that have been conducted since 2000 have been affected by vandalism. Opponents of GM benefit from current rules, which dictate that all trials must be disclosed on a Government website.
However, a review of security arrangements for trials has been ordered by Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary and Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary.
The Independent reported that ministers are preparing to scrap the disclosure rule.
A Government source told the newspaper: “We need to review the security arrangements. The rules are a charter for people who want to stop the experiments. A lot of information has to be put in the public domain and that makes it very easy for people to trash them.”
Mr Benn said: “We need to see if GM foods have a contribution to make, and we won’t know the answer about their environmental impact unless we run controlled experiments. It’s important to go with the science.”
Lord Mandelson acted to loosen rules on GM licensing in his previous job as EU Trade Commisioner, and it is thought he favours a relaxation of the conditions in Britain.
While the Government has signalled that GM crops hold the potential to prevent future food crises, Gordon Brown has trodden carefully around the issue due to fierce opposition from large sections of the public.
Leeds University, where a trial batch of 400 GM potato plants was destroyed by vandals in June, is planning to make a final attempt to complete the trial, and is asking the Government to fund security fences and CCTV cameras on its farm.