26 May 2000
Minister backs GM compensation call

By FWi staff

SCOTTISH agriculture minister Ross Finnie has backed compensation calls for farmers who have unknowingly grown genetically contaminated oilseed rape.

The call came as another 10 MPs signed an Early Day Motion demanding compensation for up to 600 British farmers who planted about 4700ha of the crop.

Mr Finnie said he was still waiting for Advanta Seeds, the company which supplied the contaminated seeds, to say how many Scottish farmers were affected.

He insisted that any compensation issue lay with Advanta and emphasised that no decision had yet been made by the Scottish Executive on the matter.

Earlier, Mr Finnie revealed that government officials in London waited one month before informing Scottish ministers about the contamination fiasco.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown has insisted that there is no risk to human health or the environment from the GM-contaminated rape crop.

But Mr Finnie is adamant that he wants to see the evidence on which this assessment was made, and evidence proving whether or not it is the case.

Farm subsidies to affected farmers should still be paid even if the Scottish Executive decides that the crops should be destroyed, he said.

The fiasco raised the possibility that existing rules setting out buffer zones between GM and conventional crops were inadequate, Mr Finnie added.

Thirty-three Westminster MPs have now signed an Early Day Motion which blames Advanta for failing to test the seed prior to selling it to farmers.

The motion urges the Government to investigate the safe post-harvest destruction of the affected crops and the possibility of compensation for farmers.

Early Day Motion are used by MPs to draw attention to an issue they feel strongly about. It elicits support by inviting other MPs to add their signatures.

The motion was tabled by Joan Ruddock, the Labour MP for Lewisham and Deptford, who has previously promoted a bill on organic food and farming.

It points out that the GM seeds have no European licence for commercial planting and are currently being grown only under test conditions.

Furthermore, the motion calls on ministers to seek the advice of English Nature to ensure that any post-harvest volunteer oilseed rape plants are destroyed

David Heath MP, who is not at the time of writing a signatory to the motion, has also called for compensation for all farmers affected by the contamination.

Mr Heath, the Lib-Dem spokesman on GM issues, made the announcement after supermarkets said would refuse to buy any GM-contaminated produce.

“These farmers have acted in good faith, they bought seed under the assumption that it was GM-free,” he said.

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