22 May 2000
Brown rejects call to resign over GMs

By FWi staff

AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has rejected calls for his resignation after the governments handling of the furore over GM-contaminated oilseed rape.

Up to 600 farmers are thought to have planted thousands of hectares of GM-contaminated rape from seed supplied by the company Advanta Seeds.

Calls for Mr Browns resignation came after a Sunday newspaper claimed that government advisers were in the dark about the fiasco for a whole month.

Advanta Seeds informed the government on 17 April that spring oilseed rape seed it had imported from Canada was contaminated with GM material.

But the matter only came to light on 17 May following the publication of a written parliamentary answer by junior agriculture minister Joyce Quin.

The Ministry of Agriculture said the four-week delay occurred because the government needed time to consult its expert advisory committees on GM crops.

But the Independent on Sunday reported on 21 May that English Nature, the governments wildlife advisors, had not been consulted about the issue.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo told the paper that he would ask Mr Brown for a full explanation about what happened to cause the four-week delay.

“The House of Commons has been seriously misled,” said Mr Yeo.

“We were told in unequivocal terms that the advice the Government had received from all the proper authorities was completely reassuring.”

He added: “But these assurances are based on more flimsy foundations than Parliament was told. I think this is now a resigning matter.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture told Farmers Weekly there was no question that Mr Brown would resign.