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UK News: Another Ooops from Aventis, No Engineering in Edinburgh

(1 November - Cropchoice News) -- After a more than a month, Starlink is still the dominant story in biotech crops; but news is happening elsewhere. There are two interesting stories from the UK today:

Don't expect UK farmers to be planting GMO seed any time soon. AgrEvo, also known as Aventis (makers of Starlink) have been pushing hard to release Chardon LL, a Libertylink feed corn, to British farmers. Taking advantage of a little-used law, activists turned the registration procedures for Chardon LL into circus of almost a million dollars worth of public hearings and testimony.

Farmers and scientists were fighting the issue on both sides until yesterday's revelation that Aventis' tests of Chardon LL do not comply with legal requirements to provide two years of field trial data. Just last week a report was issued that roasted the government for its handling of BSE, so the news is highly embarassing for British regulators, who do not enjoy broad public support. Observers in Britain are predicting the failure of the trials on this technicality will be the "kiss of death" for release of Chardon LL (or any GMO seed) in the UK for the next year.

From bad to worse for the European biotech industry: A major biotech industry lobbying group in Europe won't deny that it was forced to cancel a major convention for lack of sponsors and fear of protests.

A non-profit in Holland reports that the EuropaBio conference that was to happen in Edinburgh, Scotland last month was cancelled for reasons that the organizers want to keep secret. EuropaBio, the conference organizer, is the European equivalent of Washington-based BIO (the Biotechnology Industry Organization). According to press reports, EuropaBio "cannot deny" that fear of oppostion and lack of sponsors forced it to cancel plans, although the official explanation from the lobbyists is that they didn't want to inferefere with another conference. Observers find this explanation hard to believe, since the other conference was scheduled to take place in another country (France) four months later (January, 2001).

The Edinburgh conference was promoted as a major event to "bring together leaders in industry, science, government, NGOs and the public at large in sharing modern biotechnology in Europe." Instead, the cancellation is turning into a symbol of the political power of opponents of GMOs in Europe.