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Organic farmer Gareth Waters
"If it could be found on the corn that we feed the cattle, it would jeopardise our status and we would lose our licence"
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Julian Rosser, Friends of the Earth Cymru
"The trials are also be bad news for neighbouring farmers"
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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Minister plans to fight GM trials
GM crop protestors
The GM seed issue has prompted protests
Welsh Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones is promising to fight plans for genetically-modified crop trials in Wales.

Mr Jones has asked the UK government for a full scientific assessment of the sites - two in Pembrokeshire and one in Flintshire - before any seed is allowed to be sown.

If that happens, it could delay the trials beyond the planting season.

Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones
Carwyn Jones : full assessment before seeds sown

Mr Jones has told the assembly that if an assessment is refused, he could prohibit planting under the Environmental Protection Act .

Mr Jones has faced angry questions over news that Wales is to have more trials of genetically-modified crops.

Assembly members were furious when it was revealed on Wednesday that Mr Jones had not told them that trials of GM fodder maize would be taking place on three Welsh sites licensed by Westminster.

Mr Jones has admitted he knew of the plans, but was not told of the locations.

Emergency question

The UK government announced maize trials at two sites in Mathry in Pembrokeshire, west Wales, and at a further site at Sealand, Flintshire, north Wales.

Preseli Pembrokeshire member Richard Edwards - who is unhappy that as the AM for Mathry he was kept in the dark about the plans - was due to raise an emergency question during the assembly's plenary session.

He wanted 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.

'Highly important'

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 National Assembly has made it very clear that it does not want GM crops grown in Wales

Julian Rosser, Friends of the Earth Cymru

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

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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See also:

04 Apr 01 | Wales
Minister knew of GM crop trials
10 Oct 00 | Wales
Assembly GM debate postponed
26 May 00 | Wales
Farm economy contribution row
18 Oct 00 | Wales
Early test for coalition
28 Aug 00 | Wales
Wales' only GM trial damaged
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