PARIS - The French Agriculture Ministry has released details of the field trials of genetically modified oil seed rape planted during the 1999-2000 campaign. Trials were authorized at 42 different sites, of which 41 involved plants modified to increase their tolerance of herbicides, while the other was to test plants modified to reduce the bursting of siliqua seed pods when they reach maturity.

In the 1998-99 season, trials took place at 78 different sites, but the total area planted was much the same as this year. A ministry spokesperson told BioWorld International that the companies and research institutes carrying out this research were apparently less worried these days about the possibility of experimental crops being destroyed. Of the 21.15 hectares planted for the 1999-2000 campaign, five hectares were deliberately ploughed up before flowering by the companies conducting the trials because they had completed their planned experiments.

All the sites have been inspected by agents of the crop protection service, who found irregularities at two sites where the pollen barriers did not correspond to the required norms. In addition, on a site planted in 1998, new shoots of oil seed rape were observed, although they should have been eliminated under the terms of the planting authorization granted by the Biomolecular Engineering Commission. The organizations conducting the trials at all three of these sites were directed to destroy the crop. - James Etheridge