Bramham set for battle in GM crops fight

Leeds University is to carry out a GM potato crop experiment.
Leeds University is to carry out a GM potato crop experiment.

OPPONENTS of GM food are lining up to try to stop a potato crop experiment in fields close to Bramham.

Concerns over a field trial of genetically-modified potato crops on the Bramham and Tadcaster border will be discussed at a public meeting today.

The meeting, which is taking place at Bramham Village Hall, has been organised by the volunteer organisation Stop GM, who say they are ‘concerned’ local people in the Bramham and Tadcaster area have not been properly consulted on the genetically-modified site at Headley Hall Farm.

The ongoing trials, which have been carried out by the University of Leeds at the site since 2008, are investigating the nematode, a microscopic worm which is known to cause extensive damage to potato crops and how to make the vegetable resistant to it.

Farmer Gerald Miles, who has been growing organic potatoes for 30 years. will be attending the meeting tonight. He said: “I am against this trial and I feel the technology they are using at the site is undemocratic. It is a huge waste of time and money from the government.

“I have been producing natural produce for 30 years and these trials are unnecessary in my view.

“There is a high security fence around the site costing even more money. Farmers are having enough of a tough time at the moment anyway with cheap food prices without this.

“So much money has been invested in this technology when natural varieties are growing already.”

Nicki Taylor, a volunteer from Stop GM who is also attending the meeting, said: “We feel concerned that information about the possible impacts of this trial have not been shared with local people.

“This meeting is the chance for people to express their views in a public forum and ask any questions that they may have.”

The meeting, which is being held at 7pm, will be chaired by local minister the Rev Stanley Menzies from the All Saints Church in Bramham.

Liz Snook, a volunteer at the Stop GM organisation, which was set up in 2010, said: “I have asked local growers in Bramham and they feel they have not been consulted. Residents, along with a panel of experts who wish to discuss their views can do so at this meeting.”

“The site is near to Aberford Road allotments in Bramham and we have very big concerns about cross-contamination. The people who have allotments there are growing lots of healthy fresh plants, but we fear these will be contaminated from the GM site at Headley Hall Farm from flying insects such as bumble bees.”

In May 2008 consent was given to the University of Leeds to carry out trials over a three-year period on genetically modified potato crops. This consent was extended for a further three years in March 2010 by Defra- The Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs.

Leeds University have been invited to attend tonight’s meeting, however they have declined.

The potato trials site near Tadcaster is one of only two genetically-modified open-air trials in the UK, the other site being based at the John Innes Centre near Norwich.

Previously the University of Leeds has stated that: “While we are aware of the public interest in GM, it is vital that any debate is based on scientific fact rather than speculation and our academics have an important contribution to make in this respect.”