Britain to proceed with caution

CALLS for a moratorium on the commercial planting of engineered crops have been rejected by the British government. Instead, it intends to move towards allowing them be grown for sale via “farm scale” trials. If these reveal harm to the environment, “we can take appropriate action”, says environment minister Michael Meacher. The trial plots will be bigger than any plots grown in Britain to date, but for now will be restricted to crops made tolerant to herbicides. Similar trials of plants modified to produce insecticides will be delayed for at least three years, as the government fears that these crops could pose a threat to species that are not pests. Biotechnology companies are pleased to have avoided an outright ban. “This is the way to get data together to challenge claims that these crops damage the environment,” says Nigel Poole, head of regulatory affairs at Zeneca Plant Science in Bracknell, Berkshire. English Nature, the government conservation watchdog which had been pressing for a moratorium,
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