By Sean Poulter
Daily Mail (UK)
The first British field trial of genetically modified potatoes was planted yesterday – in defiance of public opinion and complaints from green campaigners. The test, funded by the taxpayer, is designed to create a crop resistant to a serious disease called late blight.
But critics argue the experiment is a waste of public money because blight-resistant potatoes produced through natural techniques already exist. They also say the GM crops could be a risk to food safety.
The trial is being carried out on a plot in Norfolk by scientists from the Sainsbury Laboratory, which specialises in plant research. It is part of a programme that has cost taxpayers £1.7 million since 2001.
Approval was granted by the department of the new Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, who has a long history of support for GM farming. Formal approval came from one of her ministers, Lord Henley.
However, studies of public opinion have revealed enormous resistance to the development of so-called Frankenstein foods.
There has been little independent research into the health effects of eating GM food, while trials of other modified crops have identified risks to neighbouring wildlife.
The GM Freeze campaign group last night raised concerns, including food safety fears over an antibiotic-resistant marker gene implanted in the trial potatoes.
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