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BBC Wales's Caroline Evans
"As it became increasingly clear a meeting would not take place the numbers dwindled"
 real 56k

Saturday, 28 April, 2001, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Police called to GM demonstration

Yellow balloons were used to symbolise floating pollen
Police were called after protesters held a demonstration near a farm in Pembrokeshire, west Wales, where GM crop trials are to start.

Hundreds of biodegradable, helium-filled balloons - yellow to represent pollen grains - were released into the air at Mathry.

A group of around 100 protesters - led by local organic farmers - marched past the fields chosen for the trials, and then to the home of the landowners.

More were tied at the entrance of the property owned by former Conservative MP Tony Marlow and his business partner Jill Chambers.

Protester Des Llewellyn
Protester Des Llewellyn fears GM crops
Ms Chambers told BBC Wales she was disappointed with the behaviour of some of the protesters - who she claimed had hammered on doors and windows.

Police officers were called, but no arrests were made and the protesters left peacefully.

Ms Chambers said she was quite prepared to listen to reasonable debate on the issue but only with those people who had genuine concerns.

The Welsh Assembly was told on Friday that there were no legal grounds to allow a ban on testing of genetically-modified crops in Wales.


No-one knows what could happen. We are trying to make Pembrokeshire a green area

Protest leader Des Llewellyn

Organic farmers behind Saturday's protest are furious at plans to sow GM maize seeds due to be sown in two fields at Castle Cenlas farm, Mathry, and at another at Sealand in Flintshire.

Protest organiser Des Llewellyn said local residents felt something had to be done, as they believed livelihoods could be threatened if crops and livestock became contaminated.

"The people of Pembrokeshire don't want it," he said.

"No-one knows what could happen, We are trying to make Pembrokeshire a green area, and it is being promoted as the green corner of Wales.

Infuriated

"We have organic farms here, bee-keepers, and conventional farms - and all this could be tainted through one man's greed."

The news that the assembly has no power to halt GM trials ordered by Whitehall has infuriated members.

AMs had been waiting to find out if an official scientific assessment by advisory body Acre had turned up enough evidence to challenge the trials.

Emerging from the talks, Mr Jones said: "As things presently stand we do not have a legal basis for prohibiting the planting of these crops but no decision will be taken before a statement is made on Tuesday so all members can be fully briefed about the position.

Former Conservative MP Tony Marlow
Landowner Tony Marlow: target of protests
Until these latest trials were announced, the only other GM experiment was at Sealand in Flintshire on a farm on the English border.

Had the assembly obtained evidence that the planned new trials would present a risk to crops in the surrounding fields, it may have had the legal power to stop any fresh trials.

Last October AMs voted 42-10 against the Seeds (National List of Varieties) Regulations 2000, which have already been approved by England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The issue had been debated long before that with members urging the then Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther to come up with a "GM-free Wales" policy.

Last November Flintshire farmer John Cottle became the first farmer in Wales to take allow his land to be used in GM crop trials.

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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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