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My brush with high security horticulture

Security at the site of a genetically modified crop trial at Rothamsted Research Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Where once they had hoped for rows of super-crops - the reality of genetic modification in Britain is the sorry sight of horticulture behind high security.

Today I was allowed behind the 10 foot wire fences, security guards and patrolling dogs of the Rothamsted Research Station in Hertfordshire.

This is the home of the UK's only experimental field trial of GM produce. It was chosen as the backdrop for a keynote speech by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP.

Reading what he said (see extracts below) you may ask if he was today acting as a statesman or a salesman. There seems little consumer or retailer appetite for genetic produce in the UK, yet Mr Paterson gave it clearer governmental backing than we have ever heard before.

He has a long way to go - there are no commercially grown GM crops on British soil and none in our shops.

After years of international innovation, the public seems not to have been won over by talk of miracle crops.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson views a genetically modified crop trial during a visit to Rothamsted Research Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/

For Mr Paterson GM can be an answer to hunger, disease and pests - and with few other European states showing any interest, it looks like he has spotted a market for UK business.

But his talk today before an invited audience of botanic boffins was preaching to the converted.

To really change things he has to engage with shoppers about their concerns - and that will be a lot bigger task that a 35 minute keynote speech.