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British government seen postponing GM decision
( 2003-10-20 21:36) (Xinhua)

 Britain is likely to have to wait several years before it sees genetically modified crops being grown commercially, if at all, because of the high political risk, analysts said on Monday.

 Test results are starting to stack up against the introduction of so-called Frankenstein Food crops, and public opinion is moving even more strongly against them.

 "I think the government is going to prevaricate. There will be no decision for at least a year, and by then you are getting close to the next likely election," said Michael Meacher, Blair's environment minister from 1997 to 2003.

 Political pollster Peter Kellner told Reuters" The popularity of the once unassailable Prime Minister Tony Blair has been steadily declining since the Labour Party's second successive landslide electoral victory in 2001, and it has been in free-fall since the Iraq war in March this year.

 "Blair has lost public confidence. To go ahead with GMs in the face of all the science would be an absolutely needless own goal," Meacher told Reuters. "It would be explosive if they go ahead with GM crops."

 Most of the pressure in favour of GM crops is from across the Atlantic and is being fronted by President George W. Bush.

 But that in itself could militate against Blair going out on a limb to endorse GM crops.

 "Blair has already done a huge favour for Bush on Iraq and paid heavily for it. His political instincts will stop him doing Bush another big favour, especially as it is by no means clear that he is guaranteed re-election next year," Meacher said.

 The government, which professes to be neutral on the issue but which is widely felt to be fundamentally in favour, launched a series of trials of genetically modified crops well before the last election.

 The latest results last week on trials of oilseed rape and sugar beet found that they were harmful to wildlife.

 That followed revelations days earlier that GM contamination of conventional crops several miles away had been discovered.

 "The tests were set up to buy time and allow opposition to cool. But if anything, opposition has hardened," Meacher said.

 Major agrochemical manufacturers like Monsanto, who have invested heavily in GM crops, are pushing strongly for their approval.

 But The European Union is dithering and the timetable for an announcement by Britain has been steadily slipping.

 Even British farmers who have been told there are great cost advantages to GM crops are keeping quiet.

 "They won't do or say a thing because they fear a consumer backlash," said Robert Bojduniak, editor of industry newsletter Farm Brief. "The UK industry will simply sit and wait.

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