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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
NFU may sue over GM blunder

Farmers have destroyed GM-affected oil seed rape crops
The National Farmers Union could issue court proceedings against the government and seed company Advanta on behalf of the 600 farmers who unknowingly sowed GM seeds.

The contaminated oil seed rape is believed to have been sown in 11,000 hectares of land in Scotland.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown advised farmers to destroy all contaminated crops, saying they would not be able to sell them in Europe.

Farmers could now try to recover the estimated 3m they will lose through crop destruction, despite the government's refusal to offer them compensation.

The NFU has consulted its lawyers about whether joint legal action by the affected farmers would be likely to succeed.

President of the NFU in Scotland, Jim Walker, has already angrily rejected Mr Brown's suggestion that farmers should individually sue the seed company Advanta, saying court action could take years to materialise.

'Dithering'

Mr Walker has said the government should pursue Canadian seed suppliers Advanta for compensation, destroy affected crops, and pay full interim payments to those farmers affected.

The NFU president accuses the agriculture minister of dithering and incompentance over the matter.

His criticism comes at a time when Mr Brown is attending a summit of EU agriculture ministers in Portugal, where he intends to press for international regulation of seed companies to be tightened up.

The row over the oil seed rape contamination took a fresh twist last week when Scottish Rural Affairs Minister, Ross Finnie, disclosed it had taken the London ministry a month to alert him to the contaminated seed.

So far the UK Government's stance has been that losses incurred by farmers are a matter to be resolved between the farmers and their seed suppliers.

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See also:

30 May 00 | Scotland
Farmers plan GM blunder talks
27 May 00 | Scotland
Compensation bid over GM seeds
27 May 00 | UK Politics
Farmers advised to 'destroy' GM crops
25 May 00 | UK Politics
Court action threatened over GM crops
23 May 00 | UK Politics
Protest over GM blunder
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