Environmental and consumer groups across the UK are furious that GM oilseed rape crops grown across the UK within the "farm scale evaluations " programme have contained highly controversial terminator genes. Such genes create male sterility in the plants and make it impossible to save seed for future use. Farmers have protested strongly about this technology, and understood that the biotechnology multinationals had agreed to phase it out. Biologists are also very concerned, because the insertion of terminator genes into plants makes them behave in very erratic and unpredictable ways.

The use of this technology in the FSE oilseed rape trials -- about 150 in all -- has been kept secret by Bayer CropScience (the seed owners) and DEFRA. However, Dr Mae-wan Ho and Dr Joe Cummins, two scientists working for the Institute for Science in Society, have undertaken painstaking research which has revealed how the GM oilseed rape plants have been engineered. They are extremely worried by what they have found, since some of the genetic components of the GM plants could wreak havoc when they spread to non-GM varieties and related weeds. The "doomsday scenario" is that sterility could spread across populations of brassicas (like broccoli, mustard and cauliflower) and also of wild relatives, and ultimately lead to their extermination.

GM Free Cymru has now asked for an urgent Parliamentary Question to be addressed to the Secretary of State for the Environment on this issue. Spokesman Dr Brian John said: "NGOs across the country feel that we have been betrayed on this issue. There has been total secrecy about the use of these terminator genes in the GM oilseed rape trials. We knew that "off the record" trials had been under way within the FSE programme, for seed planting densities have been going up year on year, and we have never had a satisfactory explanation for this. Then on 30 January Margaret Beckett gave a hint in Parliament that there was something different about the GM oilseed rape varieties being used in Britain as compared with varieties planted in Canada and the USA.
Now we know what has been going on. There has been deceit and evasion at every turn, and the Farm-scale Evaluations of GM crops are revealed as having very sinister side-effects."

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