Advisors to the UK government believe that field trials of genetically modified crops are seriously flawed. The trials do not provide an adequate basis for deciding whether GM crops should be grown commercially.

According to a report on BBC News Online, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC), which has an advisory role to the government concerning biotechnology issues affecting agriculture and the environment, the way the trials were introduced promoted the belief that they were shrouded in secrecy. AEBC advises ministers to consult people more widely than hitherto.

Its new report, "Crops on Trial," has condemned the launch of the trials as damaging to public confidence, saying: "The absence of consultation, the very short notification, and the particularly unfortunate location of some of the chosen sites have made it seem that the trials have been conceived and designed in a secretive way, with key players not fully engaged"

Beyond the issue of public and professional consultation, the AEBC recommends that the separation distances between GM trials and conventional crops should be "large enough to suit everyone involved, including organic farmers." This is likely to prompt an increase in the stipulated distance, as organic farmers have been pushing for this from the outset.