1.Security becomes main cost in GMO crop trials

NOTE: Although neither of the following pieces directly says so they both originated in a briefing organised by the Science Media Centre in London this morning at which the 3 scientists quoted were brought together by the SMC with selected journalists.

This tactic of trying to polarise the debate into scientists versus 'eco-extremists' exactly mirrors the approach of the SMC's sister lobby group Sense About Science. During the public debate in 2002, SAS generated similar articles by press releasing surveys of GM scientists on vandalism, and encouraging claims of all kinds of threats and intimidation which went entirely unsubstantiated.

The fact that both the Science Media Centre and Sense About Science have directors who closely connect to the very heart of the LM network is doubtless a coincidence :-)

For more on the Science Media Centre's revealing record on climate change and GM, see the journalist Andy Rowell's submission to the SMC's Board.

It may be useful to read this in conjunction with the George Monbiot interview about the LM group that LobbyWatch published at
1.Security becomes main cost in GMO crop trials
Reuters, July 28 2008

Security has become by far the largest cost for field trials of genetically modified crops in Britain as researchers seek to protect sites against vandalism, a scientist said on Monday.

Howard Atkinson of Leeds University, who has been running a field trial on GMO potatoes, said the trial itself cost 25,000 pounds but there was a "six figure" bill for security around it.

Atkinson is due to meet with Phil Woolas, the UK minister responsible for GMO crops, in early September. He said he would ask Woolas for either the government to no longer give the location of small-scale trials or pay a share of security costs.

He told reporters at a media briefing that it was difficult for universities to justify such a large security cost "to protect against zealots."

There has been significant opposition to genetically modified crops in Britain with concerns centred on both food safety and possible environmental impacts and many trials have been vandalised by activists.

GMO crops are, however, grown widely in both North and South America.

The government does not publish the exact site of a GMO field trial but provides sufficient information for opponents to locate them.

Jim Dunwell of Reading University said there has been a sharp drop in the number of GMO crop trials in Britain over the last few years with just one application for this year, down from about 20 to 30 a year at one stage.

He said, in contrast, there were about 1,000 trials a year in the United States.

Wayne Powell, director of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, said as a result of vandalism to a GMO field trial last year "we now have 24-hour security, we have fences around materials."

The field trials at Leeds University are for GMO potatoes which are more resistant to nematode worms while the NIAB trials are for potatoes resistant to blight.
(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Michael Roddy)
By Emily Beament
Press Association, 28 Jul 2008

Field trials of GM crops in the UK need better protection to allow researchers to assess the benefits of genetic modification technology, scientists said today.

Professor Howard Atkinson of the University of Leeds suggested the location and details of small-scale trials could be kept from the public, as they are in Canada, to prevent them being vandalised by anti-GM protesters.

Other options could include a national, secure field testing site for GM crops or that universities conducting trials should not have to bear the costs of security measures such as fences or guards, researchers said.

Speaking at a press briefing in London today, scientists said the number of field trials had declined in recent years because of sabotage, damaging the UK's ability to inspire innovation and commercial investment.

Professor Jim Dunwell, of the University of Reading, said GM crops were being created which would be more drought-resistant or would take up nitrogen more efficiently, cutting the need for increasingly expensive chemical fertilisers.

Field trials were an important part of developing the "exciting opportunities" GM was presenting to tackle rising food prices and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

Prof Atkinson's study into resistance to crop-damaging nematodes in potatoes - which he said could be developed for Africans who depend on plantains for food - at Leeds University was destroyed last month.

There is currently just one GM trial in the UK, into genetic solutions to potato blight, which was vandalised last year.

Protesters are able to find the sites in the UK because their location is publicly available under rules brought in to allow farmers to know what was being grown near them - but in Canada small-scale trials which are judged not to have environmentally damaging consequences are not publicised.

Professor Wayne Powell of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, which is running the trial into potato blight, said current rules "should be reassessed in the face of global challenges we face and the potential benefits of GM".