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BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
"The Liberal Democrats say independent legal advice to the Assembly's presiding officer has confirmed the powers."
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Assembly presiding officer, Lord Elis-Thomas
"This motion provides the Assembly with an opportunity to declare a GM-free Wales, if the members want to do it"
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Monday, 15 May, 2000, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Assembly battle for GM-free Wales
GM maize seeds being sown in Flintshir
GM maize seeds being sown in Flintshire
The presiding officer has confirmed that the Welsh Assembly does have the power to debate a motion declaring Wales GM-free.

But Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said the issue of whether it had the power to implement the decision might be tested in court.

He said that the Assembly has to use its powers to the full or it would be letting the people fo Wales down.

Lord Daffyd Elis-Thomas
Lord Daffyd Elis-Thomas: Debate likely
At the weekend, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats claimed that the Assembly had the power to ban genetically modified crops.

The Assembly Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther has faced intense criticism after she admitted she was unable to stop a GM trial at a farm in Flintshire.

But Mike German said independent legal advice to the presiding officer confirms that a ban could be imposed in Wales.

The crop trial in Sealand in Flintshire, has gone ahead despite all attempts by Christine Gwyther to stop the GM maize seeds being sown.

She conceded defeat when a plea to the biotech company Aventis failed and was forced to admit to the Assembly that no one could legally do anything to stop the trial.

Now the Liberal Democrats have said that there are powers under the Environmental Protection Act.

Future trial

"Let's take that power and use it properly," said Mr German.

"There are signs to me that Christine Gwyther has been put under pressure and withered when she had the pressure put on her by John Prescott's department in London."

The Liberal Democrats say independent legal advice to the Assembly's presiding officer has confirmed the powers.

They now intend testing them in a motion to ban GM crops which they want the Assembly to debate this week.

However, if any legal action were to be taken, it is unlikely to be retrospective and could only ensure that future trial are outlawed in Wales.

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See also:

09 Apr 00 | Wales
Lib Dems attack GM seed plans
29 Mar 00 | Wales
Assembly approves GM seed
09 Mar 00 | Wales
'Go it alone' call over GM ban
01 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Decision on GM seed postponed
12 May 00 | Wales
Second call for Gwyther to go
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Full list of GM crop sites
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