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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 11:20 GMT
Welsh vote to set UK GM policy

GM Crops: Welsh decision will affect entire UK
A vote in the Welsh Assembly could block the commercialisation of a genetically modified seed across the UK.
Food under the microscope

Members of the National Assembly for Wales's agriculture committee will decide on Tuesday whether to grant a licence to market a GM maize.

Agriculture ministers from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England have to agree to the maize being added to the national seed list, which controls what can be grown in the UK.

A refusal by the Assembly would effectively prevent a licence being granted in the UK to allow the maize to be sold commercially to farmers.

It could also prove to be one of the first tests of devolution.

The decision is being considered over an application by the Essex-based Aventis company to add its GM T25 maize.

Friends of the Earth say granting a licence would be premature before trials are completed, and the organisation is also worried about the trials themselves.

The Assembly's decision rests with the agricultural secretary Christine Gwyther who said earlier this week that keeping Wales GM free could help boost Welsh farmers' sales.

Christine Gwyther: Called for GM-free Wales
But whichever decision she makes could be subject to judicial review, either by the company applying or by anti GM campaigners.

At the weekend, Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged the potential harm GM foods could have.

But the government has denied any U-turn in its policy on GM crops or foods.

Earlier, this week Mo Mowlam, who co-ordinates the government's policy on GM foods, told a conference: "Our position has remained consistent.

"What we have always said is that there are potential harmful effects.

"There is always an element of risk. What is important in this issue is that the public have knowledge of the risks."

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See also:

01 Mar 00 |  Scotland
GM crops debate call
26 Feb 00 |  Scotland
GM foods labelling call
27 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Blair shifts on GM food
28 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Mowlam defends GM policy
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