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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 April, 2003, 06:17 GMT 07:17 UK
Commit to non-GM food, councils told
Anti-GM protestors
Environmentalists fear GM crops could contaminate food and wildlife

Environmental groups have urged councils to commit to non-genetically modified food in the run-up to the elections on May 1.

Friends of the Earth has asked councils to pledge not to use GM foods in schools and to call on the government to prevent GM crops being grown in their areas.

The group said councils needed to act before the government and European Commission decide later this year whether to allow the widespread growing of GM crops in Europe.

If given the go-ahead, GM crops risk contaminating local food, farmland and wildlife and threaten the viability of organic food, Friends of the Earth claims.

'Now or never'

A growing number of councils have already voted to become GM-free areas, with those in the south west of England taking the lead.

Among them are Cornwall County Council, South Gloucestershire Council, South Hams District Council and town councils in Norton Radstock, near Bath, and Bridport, Dorset.

Devon and Lancashire Councils have also taken steps towards avoiding GM foods.

Friends of the Earth has launched an interactive website so people can e-mail their councils and ask them to go GM free.

Friends of the Earth GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "It really is now or never if we want to stop the introduction of GM crops in this country.

"And it is now or never for local election candidates.

"They have a chance to show they support the GM free Britain campaign by pledging to push their own council to go GM free."

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