9 May 2001
Protests halt gene crop trial

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

PROTESTORS – including farmers – have succeeded in halting the planned trial of a crop of genetically modified maize in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Tony Marlow, a former Tory MP, and his business partner Jill Chambers have pulled out of the experiment at Castle Cenlas farm near Mathry.

The trial, which had been licensed by the Department of the Environment, involved seed developed by the biotechnology company Aventis.

The decision to quit followed a two-week opposition campaign spearheaded by local organic farmers, local residents and environmental groups.

In a statement, the partners blamed a “deceitful and distorted campaign of misinformation” aimed at conventional farmers.

The statement rejected campaigners claims that the value of commercial crops and livestock close to the GM crop trial site would be reduced.

“Such a prospect is totally false. However, given these concerns and the added distress they may cause, it would be unfair to proceed at this time,” it said.

Protest leader Gerald Miles, who farms organically nearby, said the local community had won a notable battle against the planting of unproven GM crops.

Local Labour MP Jackie Lawrence, who joined the protests, agreed that events showed could be achieved when everyone pulled together.

Welsh rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones, who had admitted he was powerless to stop GM trials in Wales, said he welcomed the news.

Politicians believe the Welsh Assemblys limited powers, which prevented it from making Wales a GM-free country, could be a key General Election issue.