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Wales Stays GE Free

Daily Post (Liverpool)
March 15, 2002,

WALES STAYS GM-FREE; CAMPAIGNERS CLAIM
VICTORY AFTER FARM IS OMITTED FROM CROP TRIALS

BY: Tom Bodden Welsh Affairs Correspondent

WELSH crops will remain GM free this spring after North Wales
farmer John Cottle was left off the Government list for trials.

Mr Cottle - who has planted genetically modified maize at Sealand, Deeside,
for the past two years - said he was surprised by the decision.
He added: "I applied to continue the programme and as far as I was concerned
it was going ahead. "I would have liked to have finished the three-year
trial because I feel it is important to get the full picture and that Wales
should be at the forefront of technology."

But environmental protesters in Wales claimed victory last night in a
campaign to halt the controversial farm-scale evaluation of the
herbicidetolerant maize used as fodder.

The UK environment and food department Defra yesterday announced 35 sites
for the spring trials in England.

The National Assembly had been in conflict with Defra since sites were
previously chosen in Wales despite cross-party opposition within the
Assembly.

Assembly Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones said all the latest sites were
in England and at a distance of at least 6km from the Welsh border.
"The decision on the trial sites was made on purely scientific grounds but
reflects the Welsh Assembly Government's policy of taking a restrictive
approach to the use of GM crops in Wales, " he said.

"This decision is to be welcomed and I am sure that those communities and
interest groups who have shared my concerns over the possible implications
of the planting of GM crops for organic and conventional produce will share
my satisfaction with the news."

Despite the set-back, Mr Cottle said he would volunteer for future trials at
his Sealand farm, on the WalesEngland border, if he could.
He said instead he would be planting conventional maize in the field at the
end of next month.

Defra insisted all the seeds in the trials "have been through years of
rigorous safety tests".

"The trials are designed to investigate the effects on wildlife from the
farming practices associated with the particular GM crop, " a spokesman
said.

The list of sites was agreed between the independent Scientific Steering
Committee, the farming and biotechnology industry body SCIMAC and farmers.
Alyn and Deeside AM Tom Middlehurst, who joined Carwyn Jones in appealing to
Mr Cottle to abandon the trials last year, said: "This gives effect to the
express wish of the National Assembly for Wales that Wales should be
declared GM free.

"I commend the Minister for vigorously pursuing our objectives."
Wales Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans said: "Following last year's protests in
Pembrokeshire and Flintshire I hope that the Government has finally realised
that Wales will not tolerate being a GM crop guinea pig again."
She claimed the Soil Association had shown more than 100 organic farms could
be at risk of contamination from the current round of GM-crop test sites for
oil seed rape, sugar beet and fodder beet, in England.

The ChardonLL variety of maize, tested by Mr Cottle, had been developed by
the biotechnology giant Aventis to be resistant to its range of herbicides.

It has been approved for planting by the European Union.
Friends of the Earth Cymru claimed the Assembly's strong stance against GM
crops was instrumental in the decision by Defra.


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