Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to halt outdoor trials of GM crops and to prosecute the GM company Aventis, after finding a field of GM ‘weeds’ growing illegally in Lincolnshire.

Oilseed rape ‘volunteer’ plants [1], already in flower, have been found at a site used earlier in the year in the Government’s GM Farm Scale Evaluations [2].  The biotech company Aventis is legally responsible for ensuring that these GM volunteer weeds do not survive to the flowering stage.  If they flower, GM ‘volunteers’ may contaminate non-GM oil seed rape plants and wild relatives.  FOE has written to the Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, urging her to order the immediate destruction of the weeds and to prosecute Aventis for breaching their consent to release GMOs.

Earlier this week Nature  magazine reported that wild maize, contaminated with GMOs, had been discovered in a remote Mexican region.  Maize originates from Mexico and all commercial varieties were originally bred from this wild stock.  Similarly, the centre of diversity of oilseed rape is Europe.  The consequences of GM oilseed rape crossing with wild plants are unknown.

Pete Riley, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “The biotech industry has gone too far, too fast and is now out of control.  GMO’s have already contaminated wild plants in Mexico. Now Aventis has allowed uncontrolled GM oilseed plants to flower in the UK.  It’s time the Government said enough is enough and called an immediate halt to this dangerous experiment.  It must also prosecute Aventis for breaking the law.”

[1] At harvest thousands of oilseed rape seeds are spilled onto the field.  When these germinate and grow the resulting plants are known as ‘volunteers’.
[2] Witham-on-the-Hill, near Grantham, grid reference TF 043 173