Farmers and GM research

March 20, 2008

Congratulations on a balanced article that highlights the Economic and Social Research Council's handling of a study of farmers' opinions on GM crops ("ESRC is criticised for 'biased' study", 13 March).

I'm a Lincolnshire farmer, and the conclusions of this research, conducted by Andy Lane of The Open University, definitely do not represent my opinions, nor, to look at a number of polls of farmer opinion, do they represent those of the majority of British farmers. The situation is far too complex for a simplistic headline such as "UK farmers want to grow GM crops" (which was how one Sunday newspaper reported the study) and, furthermore, it threatens to alienate consumers and bring into question our trustworthiness as custodians of the countryside.

Also, in defending his decision to poll just 30 farmers as a representative sample, Lane said "it was necessary to get help from the Supply Chain Initiative to gain access to farmers". However, the National Farmers' Union, with its 50,000-odd members, is also an adviser to the researchers, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs keeps details on all farmers. For Lane to claim that it was necessary to go to an organisation that promotes biotech for help in finding farmers is at best just lazy and at worst compromises the results - neither reflects well on The Open University or the ESRC, which funded Lane's study.

Peter Lundgren, White Home Farm, Branston Fen, Lincoln.

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