The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food today rejected Greenpeace claims that the Government would be acting unlawfully if it allowed GM crop trials to go ahead this autumn without planning permission.

The Ministry said that it did not accept Greenpeace’s claim that because the trials were research they were outside the exemption in planning law for agriculture. The Ministry’s view is that agricultural research can feature as part of normal farming activities. In reply to Greenpeace, the Ministry said:

“We have no doubt that agricultural research of the kind undertaken in the farm scale evaluations does come within the meaning of “agriculture”. Research has been an integral feature of agriculture for many years.”

The Ministry also disputed Greenpeace’s assertion that, if planning permission were required, it would be for the Government to apply for it. The farm scale evaluations are carried out by the companies concerned and not by government departments. The Ministry said that it is for the companies to arrange for the crops to be grown through contracts with farmers and any planning permission would have to be sought from the local planning authority by the contractors and the farmer on whose property the evaluations are taking place. The Ministry therefore considered that Greenpeace would have no grounds for seeking a judicial review.