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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Farmer presses on with GM trial

The farmer hosting Wales's only GM crop trials has vowed to continue, despite a plea from the Welsh Assembly to stop.

Flintshire farmer John Cottle - who had threatened to pull out of the trial - has met with Welsh Assembly Agriculture Minister Carwyn Jones to explain his reasons to go ahead.

Mr Jones described the decision as "a slap in the face" for the assembly.

GM farmer John Cottle
John Cottle: planted GM seed

Mr Cottle said on Monday that he had given the matter a great deal of thought since meeting with the minister last week.

But, he said he remained convinced of the benefits of the trials, aimed at developing a herbicide-resistant maize.

"I told Mr Jones I would be growing the seed for another year," he said.

"I told him it would be a great advantage for Wales to be growing GM crops and trialling this new technology."

Mr Cottle said he believed it would have been "detrimental" to Wales to opt out of the trials, when similar projects were being carried out in England and Scotland.

it would be a great advantage for Wales to be growing GM crops and trialling this new technology

Farmer John Cottle

And he reiterated his belief that the GM chemicals used in the trial maize were more environmentally-friendly than conventional products because they did not kill wildlife which came into contact with them.

But Mr Jones was clearly disappointed at the news.

"It is a slap in the face for the whole assembly," he told BBC Wales.

He said he was pleased that the assembly had managed to bring about extensions to the barrier zones between GM crops and conventional crops, and that the issue had now been raised by the assembly at European level.

'No power'

However, the assembly has no powers of its own to halt the trials.

"We don't have absolute power," he said.

"The only way we would have absolute power over GM crops would be if we were an independent state outside of the European Union - and clearly, that's not going to happen."

The assembly had hoped to persuade Mr Cottle to change his mind and dig up the seed, which was planted a fortnight ago.

They were hoping that a temporary halt to the three-year trial - now in its second year - would allow members to hold a full debate on the issue.

The assembly had aimed to create a GM-free Wales - not least as a marketing ploy to kick-start Wales's flagging farming industry.

Two other GM trials in Wales, planned at Mathry in Pembrokeshire, were called off when landowner Tony Marlow accused the government of providing misleading details on the experiment.

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See also:

09 May 01 | Wales
GM crop trials abandoned
04 Apr 01 | Wales
Minister knew of GM crop trials
28 Aug 00 | Wales
Wales' only GM trial damaged
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