Trials of controversial genetically modified crops could be set to take place in England next year, it has been revealed.
An application has been submitted by the Rothamsted Research institute and if approved would see trials of GM wheat taking place on UK soil for the first time since the 1990s.
The trial would be scheduled to take place as early as March next year and would see the growing of wheat which has been modified to resist aphids, a major pest of cereals.
If granted permission the trials will take place at Rothamsted’s farm in Hertfordshire, and will be limited to 288sq metres of GM wheat.
Farming Minister Jim Paice recently said during a parliamentary debate that he would supports farmers being given “access to developments in new technology”.
But he stopped short of agreeing to a wholesale planting of GM crops, saying that a “robust risk assessment” would be needed to prove they are safe for people and the environment.
The sale of GM food remains illegal in the European Union, with strong opposition being mounted to any shift in this policy from the anti-GM lobby.
Although no GM crops are grown commercially in the UK, GM potato trials are under way in Yorkshire as part of a University of Leeds experiment.
The trials had to be scrapped some years ago after protesters vandalised the crops.
GM crops are grown all over the world, with the United States, China, India and several countries in South America making extensive use of the technology.