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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Minister to be grilled over GM trials
Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones faces angry questions over news that Wales is to have more trials of genetically-modified crops.
Assembly members are furious that Mr Jones did not tell them that trials of GM fodder maize would be taking place on three Welsh sites licensed by Westminster.
Mr Jones - who has no jurisdiction where such trials are concerned - has admitted he knew of the plans, but was not told of the locations.
On Wednesday it was revealed that the government had announced maize trials at two sites in Mathry, Pembrokeshire, west Wales and at a further site at Sealand, Flintshire, north Wales.
There is expected to be a heated debate in the assembly chamber on Thursday.
Preseli Pembrokeshire member Richard Edwards - who is unhappy that as the AM for Mathry he was kept in the dark about the plans - will raise an emergency question during the plenary session.
He wants to know exactly when Mr Jones first heard of the Department of the Environment proposals.
Mr Jones has said he only had confirmation of the sites chosen on Wednesday - and was annoyed that the media were told before he and his assembly colleagues were.
He is expected to tell fellow members that he wants a full scientific assessment of the sites prior to seeds being planted.
And he plans to ask the DETR why he was not informed of the sites chosen before the press were told.
He has claimed he warned his Westminster counterpart that the assembly would oppose attempts to hold any new GM trials.
Glyn Davies, the Conservative AM who chairs the assembly's rural affairs committee, said he was outraged.
"I think that if the minister did know about these sites on 22 March, it causes me some real concern," said the Mid and West Wales member.
"This was a highly important issue for Wales and I would have thought we ought to have been involved in the discussions before there was a definitive announcement by the DETR in London."
A letter leaked to BBC Wales suggested that Welsh Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones knew at least a fortnight ago about plans for more trials of genetically-modified crops.
It said a meeting at which he intended to inform colleagues was cancelled because of foot-and-mouth.
"The actual sites were notified on an embargoed basis either yesterday or the day before," he told BBC Wales on Wednesday.
"Then officially the notice came through this morning."
The land in west Wales belongs to Tony Marlow, former MP for Northampton North.
Former assembly agriculture minister Christine Gwyther confirmed that Jackie Lawrence MP and Richard Edwards AM - who represent the Mathry area - had not been informed of the decision.
Friends of the Earth Cymru said the decision was a "slap in the face" for the assembly and farmers.
"The National Assembly has made it very clear that it does not want GM crops grown in Wales unless it can be proved that they are safe for human health and the environment," said FoEC campaign co-ordinator Julian Rosser.
Concern to farmers
"That hasn't been proven for these crops or any GM crop.
FoE Cymru said that under normal conditions, maize pollen could travel 800m, but even further under the right conditions, which was of concern to non-GM farmers.
The Famers' Union of Wales said it had consistently opposed GM crops on the grounds of cross-pollination.
Flintshire Green Party said people would think devolution was just a "con" because the trials were being pushed through against the assembly's will.
Last October, the Assembly voted 42-10 against the Seeds (National List of Varieties) Regulations 2000, which have already been approved by England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
AMs began debating the issue of GM seed regulations a year ago and the former assembly agriculture secretary Christine Gwyther was pressed to come up with a "GM-free Wales" policy.
Last year, GM crop trial farmer John Cottle said he would continue to allow the crops growing at Sealand, Flintshire, despite damage by protestors.
The crop trial - on the border with England - had been Wales's only GM experiment to date.
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