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Trials farmer warns against GM 
Source: FWi 12 March 2004

By Tom Allen-Stevens

ONE OF the farmers involved in the farm-scale evaluation trials of
genetically-modified maize has warned against commercial plantings.

The government was right to lift the moratorium on growing GM crops,
according to Nick Cobbold of JC Lewis Partnership in Oxfordshire.


But despite having grown five trials of GM maize and oilseed rape for the
government-run evaluations, he will not be among the first to grow them
commercially. {I'm not surprised - he got crap yields from the GM maize -
Jean]

"I think the public's not ready for GM," said Mr Cobbold, who farms near
Hinton Waldrist. "Why grow something that they don't want?"

He said the technology has a lot to offer farmers, but they could pay a
heavy price for consumer resistance to GM.

"How will the supermarkets respond, for example? We couldn't afford to take
a 15p/kg cut in our beef price just because we fed our animals GM maize."

He denies that this would put UK farmers at a disadvantage to those in other
countries who can grow GM crops.

"Farmers in the US, Argentina or China have such vastly different farming
systems to us that you really cannot compare on the basis of just one
technology."

And European farmers have compelling reasons for keeping consumers on-side,
especially with the changes currently going through on CAP reform.

"It could be a very bad PR coup for farmers to embrace GM crops, bearing in
mind we get socking great subsidies from the taxpayer."

But the legal case to lift the moratorium has been answered, and there is no
need to conduct further farm-scale trials just because atrazine is being
phased out.

"I think it would be a waste of taxpayer's money, and would make very little
difference to how people felt about the technology.

"You cannot justify redoing the whole set of trials every time a herbicide
loses its approval - I think the anti-GM lobby is clutching at straws."

There are plenty of GM trials still going on at various UK field centres, he
pointed out.

Work to develop management guidelines for maximising wildlife benefits
without compromising yield should continue.

"Any research that broadens our knowledge of the technology must be a good
idea, but this should not be at the taxpayer's expense.

"In the case of maize I think it is now right that the government should
lift the moratium.

"Just because the public don't want it, that's not to say it shouldn't be
legal to grow it.

"It should now be up to farmers whether they want to grow GM crops and the
marketplace whether there is a demand for them."

Biofuels may be the way to address consumer concern, said Mr Cobbold.

"I think the public would be happier putting GM products in their fuel tank,
rather than eating them."


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