Genetically modified maize
being grown in Norfolk has been banned in
Switzerland for fear it could contaminate crops and honey.
But the company behind the
trial stood by its decision last night to
continue the experiment, insisting it was totally safe.
Swiss authorities are refusing
to license the T25 variety of herbicide
In a statement, the country's
Bureau of the Environment said: "Swiss
agriculture lives on our products' reputation for being pure and close
to nature. Such gene technology experiments affect this image."
T25 maize is being grown
at four experimental sites in Britain,
including six acres at Lyng, near Dereham.
Campaigners say the Swiss
decision raises new doubts over the safety of
the trials, which are being carried out to assess the environmental
effects of GM crops.
Jonathan Mathews, of Norfolk
Genetic Information Network, said:
moved to ban the maize in question from even small-scale trials because
its harmlessness to humans and the environment has not been proven.
"How long will the British government go on ignoring the warnings?
"They claim that the trials
are about science but experts in the UK and
other countries are saying that these trials cannot go ahead with
Greenpeace director and Norfolk
farmer, Peter Melchett, called at a
public meeting two weeks ago for the Lyng maize to be destroyed.
Last night villager Karly
Graham, who organised the meeting, said: "The
Swiss have banned it, yet we in Lyng have it growing on our doorstep.
"Clearly the trial should
be stopped immediately. As our meeting
demonstrated, the vast majority of local people are totally against it."
King's Lynn biotechnology
firm AgrEvo insisted that the farm-scale
trials were safe.
"The European Parliament
has voted to give this variety of maize a
marketing consent licence after a thorough evaluation of its safety," a
He added that the crop's
DNA had been modified, to prevent its genes
reacting in either human or animal digestive systems.
"Bees very rarely forage
in maize, therefore the likelihood of maize
pollen being a constituent of honey is very remote," he said.
Farmer William Brigham, who
has agreed to allow the GM trial to be
staged on his land, said: "I'm not changing my view.
"I've got scientists here
all the time and if they told me something was
wrong I'd accept it."
GM crops are set to bloom
across thousands more acres of Britain's
countryside next year.
Ministers have agreed a request
from AgrEvo to increase the number of
test plantings of maize and oilseed rape from six to 75. AgrEvo also
wants to increase the maximum size of sites from 25 to up to 125 acres.
Environmental groups claim
AgrEvo is using science as a smokescreen for
commercial-scale growing, but AgrEvo said the move was part of a planned
increase. Once the crops had been harvested, they would be destroyed.