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BBC Wales's Roger Pinney
"Welsh Liberal Democrats are keen to be seen by voters as the party most interested in the environment"
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Sunday, 9 April, 2000, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Lib Dems attack GM seed plans
Lib Dem logo
On the closing day of the Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference at Llandudno, there has been a strong attack on Assembly Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther's decision to licence a variety of genetically modified maize seed.

Ms Gwyther was accused of acting under instructions from Westminster and ignoring the wishes of the National Assembly.

Welsh Liberal Democrats are keen to be seen by voters as the party most interested in the environment.

It is an area where Liberal Democrats believe they can steal a march over their opponents.

The conference motion singled out Ms Gwyther by condemning her decision to add GM maize T25 to the National Seed List.

The move was against the advice of the National Assembly's agriculture committee.

Mick Bates
Mick Bates - concern over GM crops

Mick Bates, the Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman backed a motion condemning Labour in the National Assembly for approving the licensing of GM crops.

He said the Liberal Democrats had proposed a clear future for agriculture, organic , environmentally friendly - through Tir Gofal.

"It calls into question two great things," he said.

"One is the power of the Assembly itself.

"The other thing is we have a vision for agriculture in Wales which says we are promoting agri-environmental scheme, we are promoting organic farming schemes.

"And here we are with the possibility to contaminate all this vision by allowing GM crops to be grown in the future."

Pressure groups

The rural votes will be important if the LIberal Democrats are to perform well at the general election.

They have used this conference to signal to farmers that they are the party which understands their needs.

And among environmental pressure groups opposition to genetically modified food is now a central campaign issue.

Greenpeace who recently staged a protest off the north Wales Coast has said more will follow.

Friends of the Earth Cymru meanwhile had legal advice which the organisation claims gave grounds for banning the GM maize seed in Wales.

Lib Dem leader Mike German
Mike German: Called for greater powers

In a recent speech, party leader Charles Kennedy called for green government.

In Wales the party is looking for policies equally attractive to urban voters as those in its tradition rural heartland.

Earlier the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats in the Assembly Mike German called for it to be given the same law-making powers as the Scottish Parliament.

He said the Assembly had responsibility, but no authority.

And he challenged Labour and Plaid Cymru to join the Liberal Democrats to share power for a fixed term to secure stability in the Assembly.

However, a senior Liberal Democrat MP warned the party against the dangers of forming a coalition with Labour.

Simon Hughes, MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, told a fringe meeting at the Welsh Liberal democrat Conference that the party should wait until after the next general election before deciding whether to do a deal with Labour.

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