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Gerald Miles, organic farmer, Mathry
"I would say the trials are pushing ahead because so many people are against them"
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BBC Wales's Geraint Vincent reports
"Fields have been ploughed up in preparation for the GM seed"
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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Farmers action against GM trials
organic carrots being harvested
Farmers fear their organic crops could be contaminated
Organic farmers who fear GM crop trials could hit their businesses are to lobby UK environment minister Michael Meacher.

An emergency meeting was held by organic growers on Tuesday night after the Welsh Assembly was told it had no legal means to block GM maize being grown in Wales.

Protester Des Llewellyn
Protester Des Llewellyn fears GM crops
The Pembrokeshire farmers are now considering a possible legal injunction against two trials of genetically-modified seed at Mathry.

Farmer Gerald Miles said the community was against the scheme and six Mathry farmers are due to meet Mr Meacher on Thursday.

"Time is of the essence at the moment because we have heard they are planning to sow this week," said Mr Miles.

Mr Miles said the farmers were at "loggerheads" with landowners Tony Marlow and Gill Chambers.

Welsh Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones told the National Assembly on Tuesday that there was no legal basis to block genetically- modified crop trials in Wales.

But Mr Jones has said that he will try to increase the distance between GM trial sites and organic producers.

We are very disappointed the Welsh Assembly did not have the guts to put a moratorium in place

Gerald Miles, organic farmer
He has also said that he wants those distances to be legally enforced.

With planting of GM maize expected to start at three trial sites - including Sealand in Flintshire - within the next few days, the announcement marks the end of a long battle to try to maintain the GM-free status.

The assembly has fought for six months to try to "go it alone" and prevent the crops from being grown at all in Wales.

Scientific studies have failed to give the minister the powers to ban the GM crops, nor can he prevent individual farmers from growing them.

But in the longer term, Mr Jones is likely to look towards Europe, to change the rules on separation distances.

He said: "The risk of legal challenge in the courts were I to act to prohibit the trials in the absence of a legal justification for doing so is assessed as high and could result in an award of very high damages against the Assembly."

Former Conservative MP Tony Marlow
Landowner Tony Marlow: target of protests
Mr Jones said there was provision to safeguard the integrity of organic and conventional production.

At the moment, there is a voluntary distance of 200 metres between GM crops and neighbouring organic producers.

The Soil Association says that gap should be six kilometres while other groups argue that, whatever the distance, it should be a legal requirement.

Any such changes would create an EU-wide conflict between the GM crop and organic regimes, which could take a year or more to resolve.

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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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