UK Approves GM Corn

Britain to allow commercial plantings of biotech maize, causing a split in opinion with other European Union nations. Compiled by staff

Published on: Mar 9, 2004

The European Union is known for its opposition to genetically modified organisms. Little by little, biotech crops are finding ways to reach Europe. And for Britain, they could biotech corn sprouting up in their fields soon

On Tuesday Britain's government granted approval to the commercial growth of genetically modified corn. For three years the herbicide-tolerant corn has been tested and results show the new breed of maize has no effect on surrounding plants and wildlife. In addition the British Medical Association shared with the parliament biotech foods were highly unlikely to pose a threat to human health.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett told the United Kingdom parliament that farmers licensed to grow the corn would have to adhere to the same conditions used in the 3-year trials. Farmers would also be required to carry out additional scientific analysis of their crops and renew licenses frequently.

In Beckett's statement to the parliament she said: "No other country has undertaken such a comprehensive and rigorous assessment of the case for and against GM crops. Having weighed up all the evidence, the Government and the devolved administrations agree that the only sensible approach is to assess each GM crop on an individual case-by-case basis."

She recognizes people are concerned about the safety of GM crops and food. "Our top priority is to protect human health and the environment. People say they want to choose between GM and non-GM. We will provide genuine choice for consumers and farmers."

But just because the government says it is safe, doesn't mean environmental groups aren't ready to put up a strong fight to keep their crops biotech-free. Green group Friends of the Earth are threatening to sue the UK government because they believe the testing was unreliable.

Beckett says the crop won't be grown commercially until at least the spring of 2005. The first licenses will expire in October 2006.