28 February 2000
Gwyther calls for GM-free Wales

By FWi staff

WELSH National Assembly agriculture secretary Christine Gwyther has called for Wales to become a GM-free zone.

Ms Gwyther spoke as the Assemblys agriculture committee prepared to debate moves to allow genetically modified seed to be added to the National Seed List.

This is the first regulatory hurdle before seeds can be grown commercially.

Ms Gyther told BBC Radio Wales that committee members should consider the issue carefully when they meet this week.

“I certainly have problems with GM in that I think to have a GM-free Wales would be such a wonderful marketing opportunity for Welsh produce, and Ive always made that quite clear,” she said.

“From my own point of view, I have to make sure that I wont be the subject of a judicial review if I say no to it, and thats another reason why I want the committee to look very carefully at this.”

The consultation process also involves ministers in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Parliament.

Agriculture ministers are required to sign off recommendations for any seed to go on the National List.

Consultation follows an industry application to the European Commission for three varieties of GM maize to be put on the EUs Common Catalogue, a compilation of all EU member states National Seed Lists.

Anti-GM campaigners warn that adding GM varieties to the National Seed List could give the green light for GM seed to be grown commercially in Britain.

But the British government flatly rejects this.

It insists the inclusion of GM maize on an EU seed list will not mean GM crops are grown commercially in the UK before 2003, when farm-scale trials end.

It says a decision on the EU Common Catalogue is matter for the Commission, and not the UK government.

Ms Gwythers appointment as agriculture secretary was opposed by some farmers leaders because she is a vegetarian.

Last autumn she refused to resign in spite of an Assembly motion of censure against her.

The motion of censure followed criticism of her failure to get the go-ahead from the European Commission for an aid package for dairy farmers.

The Welsh rural affairs committee debates the GM seed question on Wednesday (1 March).