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GM farmer John Cottle
"They are really making a big mistake"
 real 28k

BBC Wales's Rebecca John reports
"In Mathry, residents have begun fund raising for a barrister to mount a legal challenge"
 real 56k

Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
GM farmer defends seed trials
GM trial protest, Sealand, Flintshire
Demonstrators tried to halt last year's trials at Sealand
Anti-GM campaigners in north Wales hope to persuade a crop trial farmer to think again about growing genetically-modified maize.

John Cottle received his fodder maize seed on Saturday and began planting in his fields at Sealand, Flintshire.

The controversial trials have been opposed by environmental groups and the National Assembly.

Friends of the Earth spokeswoman Roberta Owen said that the experiment had angered local people.

GM farmer John Cottle
John Cottle: Sticking to his guns
But Mr Cottle said he is prepared to speak to the protesters to explain what he feels are the benefits of growing the crop.

"There are so many advantages of using this spray on GM maize; they are making a big mistake," he said.

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

Custodians of the Land - an umbrella of environmental groups, including the Green Party and Friends of the Earth - plans to protest at the Flintshire planting site on Bank Holiday Monday.

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

Vic Button, Custodians of the Land
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.

Organic farmers - led by Gerald Miles - are planning to hold a protest convoy of tractors against the Mathry test sites.

Residents have also begun fund raising to pay for a barrister in order to mount a legal challenge against the planting.

The Farmers' Union of Wales has pledged 2,500.

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.

Gerald Miles, Mathry organic farmer
Gerald Miles: 'This would change our lives'
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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