Grower defends GM potato trials as critics make new study public

SCIMAC chief dismisses anti-GM "scaremongering"

By Sophie Barnett A grower and supporter of genetic modification (GM) has hit back at calls for planned GM trials on potatoes to be abandoned after a suppressed report was made public. Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC) chairman Bob Fiddaman said claims by Greenpeace activists were pure “scaremongering” and “totally irrelevant” to trials that have been given the go-ahead to take place in Derbyshire this spring. Greenpeace is calling on DEFRA secretary of state David Miliband to halt approved GM trials after findings obtained from Russia showed more evidence of links with cancers in laboratory rats. The disclosure, which was published on www.gmwatch.org and released by Welsh anti-GM organisation GM Free Cymru, referred to trials to create a variety resistant to the Colorado beetle by modifying potatoes to produce lectin. But Fiddaman said: “My immediate response is: it’s a scare tactic. There’s no relevance between this study and the forthcoming trials. Lectin is an anti-feedant and we know it’s a poison to insects — but it has nothing to do with trials here.” He said it was like giving up trying to find all cures for cancer just because one did not work. “The tests in this country are to include a gene in the wild species of potato to make it blight resistant — there’s no crossing species barrier. Firstly, these are just trials and there is no possibility of it getting into the food chain yet and also, if it works, it would hugely reduce the risk of spraying with pesticides — which everyone wants.” Greenpeace campaigner Graham Thompson said: “Aside from risks to human health, it [GM] is rubbish technology. It does not work.”

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