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WAG taking time over GM decision

Feb 10 2004

Steve Dube, The Western Mail


THE Welsh Assembly Government has been revealed as being behind the decision yesterday to postpone a decision on whether to approve the first commercial planting of agenetically-modified crop in Britain.

Wales Countryside Minister Carwyn Jones denied a report that Wales and Scotland had combined to block a strain of GM maize called Chardon LL or T25, that appeared to be less environmentally destructive than conventional maize in the Government's three-year crop trials.

But Mr Jones said, "We want to consider our position further.

"We are taking some time to decide our position so that we consider all the relevant environmental and legal factors."

Mr Jones is thought to have argued against approving the crop in line with public opinion in Wales, where the FUW is part of an anti-GM alliance.

The alliance has raised concerns about GM contamination of conventional and organic crops and the lack of scientific evidence on whether GM food is safe to eat.

The United Kingdom Government is thought to have considered approving the crop in England alone but UK regulations on crop varieties require consent from all member countries.

The postponement is a blow to the Government, which broadly supports GM as ascientific advance that will leave British farmers at a disadvantage in the event of a UK ban.

The current moratorium of GM crops in Europe could be ended anyway as early as February 18 when the ban is reviewed by the European Parliament.

Meanwhile new evidence has emerged from the United States, the champion of GM food, on the extent of contamination by GM material of conventional or organic crops.

Organic farmer Victor Schrock, of Illinois, grew a variety of blue maize that cross pollinated normal yellow maize grown three miles from his holding.

Mr Schrock, who farms 1,600 acres organically,grew the open pollinated blue maize for the first time in 2003.

It produces distinctive blue kernels and Mr Schrock received calls from farmers three miles away worried that the blue kernels were so abundant and noticeable in their crops that they would have problems selling it.

The group has passed the evidence to Carwyn Jones, who confirmed that he had received it yesterday.

"We thought that what amounts to an excellent field experiment, illustrating the distance over which cross contamination of neighbouring crops of maize can occur, would be very useful toMr Jones when dealing with the imminent threat ofcommercialisation and drawing up co-existence regulations for GM maize in Wales," said Ian Panton of GM Free Cymru.


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