18 June 2001
Welsh GM worries block hybrid seeds

By Tom Allen-Stevens

THOUSANDS of growers in Wales cannot buy hybrid oilseed rape seed because the Welsh Assembly has still not signed off the commercial licence.

The Assembly is worried that this could give backdoor approval to the sale of genetically modified (GM) rapeseed.

Delays were caused by the inclusion of an extra clause in the approval document that prohibited the commercial release of GM rapeseed in Wales.

“The Rural Affairs department was concerned about the GM implications of granting the renewal for hybrid oilseed rape,” an assembly spokesperson told FWi

“Amended approval is now in draft form, but these things take time to complete.”

There is speculation that the Welsh system is hopelessly overloaded, as just one person is responsible for processing all such approvals.

The Ministry of Agriculture signed the licence in January, renewing the approval for selling the seed to English growers.

However, it is the reason for the Welsh hold-up that has dumbfounded UK breeders.

“If you want to sell GM anything, you need a separate licence,” said cpb Twyfords Theo Labuda.

“No one in the whole EU has approval to sell GM rapeseed anyway, while this extra clause will do nothing to prohibit field-scale GM trials.”

Mr Labuda is also concerned the move could confuse public perception about hybrid technology.

“Hybrid does not mean GMO. Hybridisation occurs naturally and has been carried out by breeders for centuries,” he said.

National Farmers Union Wales cereals committee vice chairman Meurig Raymond has approached Rural Affairs minister Carwyn Jones to try to speed up approval.

“The stupidity of it all is that we could quite legally go across the border into England, buy some hybrid seed, bring it back here and plant it,” he said.

“Whats also absolutely ridiculous about this is that most forage maize grown in Wales is hybrid anyway.”

Hybridisation is a process where the pollen of one variety fertilises the seed of another variety of the same species.

Genetic modification occurs when the DNA of one organism is extracted and placed in another, which may be of a different species.

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