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BBC Wales's Rebecca John
"The planting is due to take place within the next week or so"
 real 56k

Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
GM protesters pledge to fight on
GM crop protestors
Sites in Wales could again face angry protests against trials taking place
Organic farmers in Pembrokeshire, west Wales, have pledged to fight plans for GM crop trials, despite assurances from the land owner concerned.

Former Conservative MP Tony Marlow - whose land has been earmarked for genetically modified maize trials - met with worried locals at his farm at Castle Cenlas on Wednesday night.

GM maize
Test crops: A field of GM maize
Three sites in Wales were announced earlier this month by the Department of the Environment - despite the Welsh Assembly's hopes of keeping Wales GM-free.

Assembly members are expecting to find out on Friday whether Assembly Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones has the power to prevent the trials taking place.

Representatives from the DoE, the assembly, and seed producers Aventis joined local crop-growers at the four-hour meeting.

The farmers - worried that their livelihoods could be at stake if the GM crops cross-pollinate with their own - emerged from the talks saying their views had not changed.

Aventis made no comment, but it was clear the company had not responded to calls to abandon the planting.

Scientific report

There was widespread anger among AMs when it was revealed that Welsh Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones - already under pressure from the foot-and-mouth crisis - had not told them that trials would be taking place on the three Welsh sites.

The assembly is now waiting for an official scientific report before making a decision to try to challenge the genetically-modified crop trials in Wales.

That report could be made public on Thursday when assembly officials are due to meet Acre, the official committee looking at GM crop trials.

Two farms at Mathry and another at Sealand in Flintshire have been chosen for the experiments.

GM farmer John Cottle
GM farmer John Cottle: Undeterred
After a special meeting called during their Easter recess AMs appeared relatively satisfied that Mr Jones was doing all he could to realise the assembly's aspirations for a GM-free Wales.

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Jackie Lawrence has warned that if the planting does go ahead, the assembly could be faced with serious public order issues at the sites.

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 to grow Sealand, Flintshire, despite damage by protestors.

Until now that trial - on the border with England - had been Wales's only GM experiment.

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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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