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Saturday, 5 May, 2001, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Protests planned against GM trial
GM trial protest, Sealand, Flintshire
Demonstrators tried to halt last year's trials at Sealand
A north Wales farmer has begun planting GM maize seed as part of controversial trials, which have been opposed by the National Assembly.

John Cottle confirmed he had started planting the GM fodder maize at Sealand, Flintshire.

His decision to go ahead with planting on Saturday came despite legal moves by a solicitor representing organic farmers opposing similar tests in Pembrokeshire.

Mr Cottle prompted protests from environmentalists and politicians last year when his farm became Wales's first GM trial site.


John Cottle: GM seed planting has begun
But Custodians of the Land - an umbrella of environmental groups, including the Green Party and Friends of the Earth - plans to protest at the planting site on Bank Holiday Monday.

The demonstration will take place on the A548 Sealand road, next to the planting site.

Protest coordinator Vic Button said: "Feelings are running high in this area.

"There will be cross-pollination with other crops and that could affect any organic growers in the area."

Mr Button said further demonstrations against the GM trials would take place.

Two other sites at Mathry, Pembrokeshire, have also been earmarked for GM trials, which have been strongly opposed by organic farmers.

Earlier this week, UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher pledged to take a GM company to task over claims it did not carry out proper consultation with the organic farmers involved.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher
Meacher faces two lobby groups on Thursday
Mr Meacher said on Thursday he would be contacting seed producers Aventis on behalf of farmers and other villagers in Mathry, Pembrokeshire.

They claimed they were kept in the dark about proposed trials of genetically modified maize at two sites.

Organic farmers and beekeepers, backed by Pembrokeshire MP Jackie Lawrence, took their fight to London on Thursday after being told that the Welsh Assembly had no power to halt the trials.

At Sealand, Mr Cottle has planted a variety of seed called Chardon LL, which is resistant to the herbicide Liberty Link.

Once sowing is completed, the trial will focus on checking the effect on flora and fauna.

The fodder maize will be harvested in the autumn and then would normally be ploughed into the ground.

The Welsh 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 carried out on behalf of the assembly failed to give Welsh Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones the power to ban the GM crops.

Nor can he prevent individual farmers from growing them.

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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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