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Wednesday, June 30, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK

Special Report

Farmers welcome GM-free Wales call

Some Welsh farmers say they would benefit from a GM food ban

A Welsh farming union has welcomed a move by the National Assembly for Wales to "take a lead" in the introduction of controls on the spread of genetically-modified food.

The Farmer's Union of Wales said it was delighted that the National Assembly has decided to pursue a policy of "making Wales a GM-free zone."

The FUW said the decision would benefit Welsh producers. "It clearly shows that members of the National Assembly share the serious concerns about the rapid development of GM foods we have already expressed," said deputy policy director Arwyn Owen."

Following the passing of a motion on Tuesday calling for action, Assembly Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther is to consult with scientific and technical advisors to draw up a draft policy for Wales.

However, Conservative AM Nick Bourne, who drew up the motion, wants Wales to be declared a GM-free zone for the next three years.

[ image: Assembly member Nick Bourne wants a three-year moratorium on GM food]
Assembly member Nick Bourne wants a three-year moratorium on GM food
Addressing the Assembly on Tuesday, he said: "I will be urging that Wales should become, for a period time, a GM-free zone, that there should be no licensing of sites in Wales and that the Welsh food, the product of Wales, should become GM free.

"The most important thing is the need for public health - this must be paramount.

"Governments of all persuasions and of all countries have had a depressing record on the release of scientific data - think of the BSE situation and the recent scare in Belguim.

"So that is why I think we need a GM-free period until we know its safe and I think a three-year moratorium will be safe."

Mr Bourne's motion which called for Wales to "take a lead" on GM-food controls was supported by 31 AMs, with 26 abstentions.

'Produce of Wales' stamp

The possibility of limits on the use of GM food is likely to please one of Wales's leading farming unions - the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW)

It has been urging that growing unease over GM food should be turned to the advantage of Welsh producers.

The FUW proposes a moratorium on GM products should be introduced until such foods are proven to be 100% safe for human and livestock consumption.

"Declaring Wales a GM-free zone can be a major selling point for all food produced here," said FUW president Bob Parry.

"This is something that we as a union have been concerned about for a long time," he said.

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