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BBC Wales's Matthew Evans
"Christine Gwyther...claimed her decision was the only reasonable, legal option"
 real 28k

Des de Souza, Avensis spokesman
"Farmers in Wales will be the ones to decide if they want to grow these varieties"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 20:36 GMT 21:36 UK
Assembly approves GM seed
GM crop
The calls for a GM ban have been defeated
Welsh Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther has approved the use of a genetically-modified maize seed in the UK despite her earlier support for a GM-free Wales.

In a statement, Ms Gwyther said she had given her approval to include the seed in the UK national seed list.

"I have concluded that the only reasonable, legal, way forward is for the application to be approved," she said.

The move went against the wishes of the Assembly's agriculture committee which had earlier urged her to vote against the listing.

The genetically-modified T25 maize seed will now be approved for sale to farmers as animal feed. Ms Gwyther's counterparts in England and Scotland have already given their approval.


Christine Gwyther AM
Christine Gwyther: GM approval
The Assembly as a whole had previously said it favoured Wales being a GM-free zone - a view supported at the time by Ms Gwyther who said it would give Wales a very good marketing opportunity.

However, she had also expressed fears that any decision to go it alone in Wales might be subject to a judicial review and might not be able to be enforced.

The environmental group, Friends of the Earth Cymru, reacted angrily to the decision.

A spokesman for the organisation said: "The National Assembly for Wales has betrayed its people by giving the go-ahead for the first GM maize seed to go onto the market."

Safe

The Farmers' Union of Wales also said it was disappointed.

A spokesman said: "The FUW has consistently argued in favour of Wales being designated a GM-free zone, believing that such a move would be a major selling point for Welsh produce."

The applicants for the licence, the Essex-based Avensis company, had always insisted the seed was safe.

Des de Souza, of Avensis, said: "We are very proud that this variety of seed has performed to the standard considered for national listing.

"The industry believes this is a technical issue. Farmers in Wales and the rest of the UK will be the ones that decide if they want to grow these varieties."

In favour

Ms Gwyther had also been given specific scientific advice on T25 from ACRE, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

It said T25 was safe for human health, the environment, and for use in animal feed.

Its only concern was with the herbicide associated with T25, although it said it was confident that farm-scale trials would address this issue.

The UK government told the European Commission in 1996 that it had no objection to T25 being placed on the European market.

Most member states voted in favour of marketing consent in 1997, except for France, which followed in 1998 after a national debate on GM crops.

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See also:

28 Feb 00 | Wales
Wales to vote on GM crops
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
GM trials: The long hot summer
28 Feb 00 | Scotland
GM food on conference menu
06 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Charity warns against GM seeds
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