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BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
"The campaigners want to highlight what they say is the social injustice of the GM trials"
 real 56k

Monday, 7 May, 2001, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
GM farmers face holiday protests
organic carrots being harvested
Farmers fear their organic crops could be contaminated
Organic farmers and others opposed to genetically modified crops are expected to hold demonstrations at Wales's three trial sites on Monday.

Farmer John Cottle planted GM maize seed on his land at Sealand in Flintshire on Saturday, and two fields at the proposed site in Mathry in Pembrokeshire have been ploughed ready for planting.

GM farmer John Cottle
Flintshire farmer John Cottle has begun planting
Campaigners have pledged to demonstrate at Mr Cottle's farm in an effort to to get him to change his mind.

Custodians of the Land - an umbrella organisation made up of environmental groups, including the Green Party and Friends of the Earth - is co-ordinating the event.

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

Mr Cottle has 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.

Donation

In Pembrokeshire around 30 cyclists - many dressed like 19th Century Rebecca Rioters - set off on Monday morning from Efail Wen in Pembrokshire, bound for the Mathry sites.

Their choice of costume was meant to symbolise the fact that they see the crop trials as a new form of social injustice.

Fundraisers in Pembrokeshire have been taking part in charity events to collect cash to pay for a barrister to represent them in their legal challenge to planting taking place.

The Farmers Union of Wales has already donated 2,500 to the cause.

Planting is expected to begin on land owned by the former Conservative MP Tony Marlow within a matter of days.

Demonstrators are planning to carry out a cycle and tractor protest at his farm - and say they will not stop demonstrating, even if the seed is planted.

Former Conservative MP Tony Marlow
Tony Marlow's fields are ready for planting
Biology professor Brian Goodwin has demanded a meeting with the assembly's rural affairs minister, Carwyn Jones, to argue that the Mathry trials should not go ahead.

He has said the fodder maize due to be planted at Mathry does not meet European Union requirements.

Plaid Cymru MEP Eurig Wyn has said he may raise the trials in the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament.

Mr Wyn, a native of Pembrokeshire, said: "I see no reason at all why the issue of GM trials in Pembrokeshire could not be brought before the Petitions Committee and have a favourable hearing.

'Every effort'

"I share the concern of many other people at the non-democratic nature of this imposition on the people of Pembrokeshire of trials to which so many people are opposed.

"Many other matters of this nature have been the subject of appeals to the committee in the past and I shall certainly make every effort to represent the people of Pembrokeshire if it is their wish to proceed."

Last 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.

Mr Meacher said on Thursday he would be contacting seed producers Aventis on behalf of farmers and other villagers in Mathry, Pembrokeshire.

No power

They claimed they were kept in the dark about the proposed trials.

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.

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See also:

06 May 01 | Wales
GM farmer defends seed trials
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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