Chemical giant BASF says trials of genetically modified potatoes will go ahead despite the withdrawal of a proposed site by a farmer in Derbyshire who said he feared for his family's safety. BASF Plant Science says the farmer's withdrawal from the field trial of the potatoes modified to resist late blight was a setback.
"It was particularly disappointing because we had got so far through the required procedures," a BASF spokesman is quoted as saying. The spokesman said the problem was a requirement to publish grid references for on-farm GM sites.
"We have to provide four-figure grid references and later in the procedures a six-figure reference in the interest of openness and transparency," he said. "That exposes anyone hosting the trial to publicity and makes it difficult for all concerned."
BASF says it is nearing agreement on new site for the trial and an announcement would be made early in the new year.
It was the second setback for BASF in Europe after the European Union's regulatory committee failed to approve the release of the genetically optimized starch potato Amflora.
The vote was 134 in support, 109 opposed and 78 abstentions. A qualified majority of 72.3 percent was needed for immediate approval and as this was not reached, the proposal now goes to the EU Council of Ministers, who will decide on the approval within the next three months.
If the council vote fails to result in a qualified majority, the European Commission will decide the issue. The EU Commission initiated the approval process with a recommendation for the cultivation of Amflora.
If approved, BASF's starch potato will be the first genetically enhanced product to be permitted for cultivation in Europe since 1998. Back in February, the European Food Safety Authority assessed Amflora to be "as safe for humans, animals and the environment as any conventional potatoes."