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The farmer due to grow an experimental GM potato trial in East Yorkshire may pull out because of the impact that the trial might have on neighbouring crops [1]. The revelation comes as the Government consultation for the GM trial by biotech firm BASF, closes and campaigners hold a protest rally and GM-free potato picnic today (Saturday) [2].

Farmers near the East Yorkshire trial farm are concerned about the threat that the GM potato trial poses to their borage crops. Borage is a high value crop grown to produce starflower oil for health food supplements and skincare products.

But local borage growers fear massive financial losses if the GM trial goes ahead because beekeepers (whose bees are vital to help pollinate the borage crop and produce speciality borage honey) do not want to bring their hives into the fields for fear that their honey will be contaminated. One borage farmer alone estimates that this could result in a £50,000 loss. Companies like Rowse Honey and Sainsbury's require beekeepers supplying them with honey to place their hives at least six miles away from any trial site [3].

The GM potato trial [4] has faced intense local opposition. Both East Riding District Council and Hedon Town council have voted against the trials. And local MP Graham Stuart, who supports the borage farmers, believes that BASF's proposals had been rushed and that the trial shouldn't go ahead this year. Furthermore, a local petition against the trial has attracted hundreds of signatures.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs public consultation on the trial closed yesterday (Friday) [5]. Campaigners do not hold much hope that it will be rejected, despite strong opposition, because Environment Secretary David Miliband personally approved trials for the same crop in Cambridge last year.

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow said:

"BASF was so desperate to get its GM potatoes in the ground that it neglected to consult with the local community and failed to realise the impact that this trial would have on nearby borage growers. The farmer due to host the trial is rightly concerned about the impacts on neighbouring farmers. He should pull out and the trial should be scrapped.

If this trial goes ahead it will not only risk a huge financial blow for farmers, but also threatens to contaminate future non-GM potato supplies. Conventional breeding already produces blight-resistant potato varieties. There are too many risks and costs involved in trialing this product that no-one wants."


[1] The farmer due to host the BASF trial farms land on the Preston/Hedon border but lives over 10 miles away in Welwick. He has not yet signed the contract to conduct the trial.

[2] For more information about the rally and GM free picnic see


[4] BASF plans trials of blight resistant GM potatoes at two sites in the UK, Cambridge (which already has Government approval) and Hedon/Preston, East Riding of Yorkshire. Plans for the same trials in Ireland were abandoned because the Irish Government imposed tough conditions on the trial. The conditions imposed by Defra are much weaker, making it easier and cheaper for BASF to go ahead with trials in England


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust