Brussels, 12 May 2003
The UK's National Trust has instructed its 2,000 tenant farmers not to grow genetically modified (GM) crops on its land.
The charity, which is responsible for some 250,000 hectares of British countryside, has described the move as a 'precautionary approach', and said their position could change on the basis of future scientific evidence.
Farm scale GM crop trials have been completed in the UK, and ministers there are due to decide whether to allow them to be grown commercially at the end of summer.
Tony Burton, the National Trust's director of policy and strategy, said: 'We have not used our land for the purposes of those experiments and we are encouraging our members, and others, to contribute to the public debate.'
The government funded debate is due to take place in June, and will be run independently. Its results will help to inform a decision on the commercial future of GM crops, as will the results from the trials, a broad scientific review of the technology, and a cost benefit analysis.
The National Trust's decision has delighted those groups opposed to the commercialisation of GM crops. Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper said: 'Public opinion is opposed to this new technology, whilst local authorities across the UK are taking steps to go GM free.'