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BBC Scotland's Aileen Clarke
"It is estimated that half the GM oil seed rape has been sown in Scotland"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 06:08 GMT 07:08 UK
Farmers plan GM blunder talks
Farmer's field
Thousands of hectares of land contain the seeds
Farmers are expected to meet Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie for showdown talks over the genetically modified seeds blunder.

The meeting, due to be held in Edinburgh on Tuesday morning, follows a call by the president of the Scottish NFU, Jim Walker, for Westminster agriculture minister, Nick Brown, to compensate farmers who have sown the crop.

The union said if Mr Brown refused, then it would look to Mr Finnie to provide "strong and truly devolved leadership" in the matter.

Mr Walker believes Mr Brown should clear up the "mess" which has been created by the accidental sowing of GM seeds.

'Dithering and incompetence'

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

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

Jim Walker
Jim Walker: "Show leadership"
At a food conference in Edinburgh, Mr Walker dismissed as "ridiculous" suggestions it was for farmers themselves to take the seed company to court.

"Even if we win a court case, even if we had the funds to pursue it, when and where would it be resolved?

"Probably in years in the European Court - and meanwhile innocent growers lose out," he said.

"It is the least he (Nick Brown) can do after weeks of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) dithering and incompetence.

"If he will not, then the Scottish Executive must - and show some strong, truly devolved leadership."

'Lack of judgement'

Mr Walker said Maff had shown a "total lack of judgement" from the start but could have been advised of the implications if it had told agriculture colleagues in Scotland, and had sought input from farmers' representatives.

"Quite simply, we wouldn't be in this mess. Seed would have remained in the bag and been returned to merchants and alternative seed or crops would have been sown in April," said Mr Walker.

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

Advanta bags
Advanta supplied the contaminated seeds
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.

Under EU rules, the GM crops produced from the seed cannot be marketed within Europe.

Mr Walker said: "The final irony is the suggestion that innocent growers who grow the crop to harvest, could be liable for prosecution themselves if they attempt to sell this crop, as the GM seed is only licensed for field trials and not for commercial production."

He added: "This failure of communication from London to Edinburgh is not an isolated incident.

"It has to be addressed urgently if joined-up government is to work and not just be a hollow soundbite."

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See also:

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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