UK biotech trials news

At least two farmers have pulled out of the recently announced Farm Scale Trials

– one at Ulleskelf in Yorkshire and another at Friskney Tofts in Lincolnshire.

One of those grid references was TF506542, indicating a trial was taking place at Sea Lane, Friskney. At this time it was not known which farmer owned the land because it is a 6 figure grid reference and there are several farmers who farmed that area.
The DETR and SCIMAC both refused to divulge the name of the farmer or his address – stating that it was part of the agreement with the farmers that their name and address would be kept secret if they so wished. This site is on recently reclaimed land and is next to the salt marsh – an area covered by at least 6 special conservation orders. This area is probably the finest agricultural land in the country and is intensively farmed. There are usually 2 -3 crops per year, most for supermarket sale, in addition to some exceptional grazing land.

On Tuesday, 15th March, The Gaia Trust hired the village hall (11am – 5pm) at Friskney for an impromptu public discussion. During that time over 300 people, many of these farmers and businessmen, called in for information, to find out how they could prevent the trial from taking place, and to give their support for a public meeting which had been arranged to take place this Friday (24th) at the Village Hall. By 5 pm, and after consulting dozens of maps, it was the general agreement that the trial farmer was Andrew Roughton of Ingleborough Farm, Friskney.
Yesterday, (Wednesday 22nd) The Gaia Trust received information that Mr Roughton had spoken to Lincs FM and Radio Lincolnshire to state that although he had been approached to conduct a trial, he had not signed a contract and he would not be holding a trial on his land. This announcement was broadcast later in the day.
The Gaia Trust contacted the DETR to ask if it was usual policy to announce a trial BEFORE a contract had been signed. They replied that it was not and that as far as they were concerned a contract had been signed. They refused to confirm if that contract was with Mr. Roughton, saying if the farmer wanted to keep details secret he could so. When asked if it could be a different farmer they would not comment.
After talking to other DETR departments, SCIMAC and Monsanto, the outcome was the same.

This raises important questions.
1) Either Mr. Roughton is the farmer conducting the trial, and has changed his mind due to local opposition (some local businesses had stated that they would not trade in any manner with anyone growing GM crops)
2) Mr. Roughton is the farmer conducting the trial, would like to remain secret and is therefore denying it
3) Mr. Roughton is not the farmer conducting the trial and another unknown farmer in the area is doing so.
4) A trial was announced as taking place when no farmer had signed a contract.

The fact that there is so much uncertainty here raises other questions.
1) If Mr Roughton is the farmer and has not signed a contract why are the DETR saying a contract has been signed?
2) If a contract has not been signed in this particular trial, is it possible that contracts have not been signed for some of the other trials that were announced?
3) Why would the DETR want the public to assume contracts have been signed when they have not?
4) Is it possible that there are not enough farmers for this years trials – and that by announcing farmers who have only been approached – they can buy more time to find the necessary trial sites?

For more information contact
Kate O’Connell
The Gaia Trust

Anderby Skegness
Tel/fax 01507 490112
email: [email protected]