1 March 2000
Welsh put off GM seed vote

By Robert Davies

A VOTE on adding genetically modified maize variety T25 to the National Seeds List has been postponed by the Welsh Assemblys agriculture committee.

It had been expected the 10-member committee would advise agriculture secretary Christine Gwyther to reject the application by Aventis Crop Science.

Instead they will seek more scientific guidance over the next fortnight.

During the debate, they heard that all four territorial agricultural ministers must approve T25 if it is to go on sale anywhere in the UK.

They were reminded that the breeders could take legal action against the Welsh Assembly if it said no.

However, several members expressed deep concern about the application, and reminded Ms Gwyther of an Assembly vote last June in favour of a moratorium on growing GM crops in Wales.

This week, Ms Gwyther admitted that she personally had problems with genetic modification, and thought a GM-free Wales would present “a wonderful marketing opportunity”.

Farmers Union of Wales spokesman Alan Morris said that, as there were insufficient test results to justify the introduction of GM crops, he expected the committee to turn down the application on 15 March.

The debate 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.

The British government flatly rejects this.

It insists that, even if GM maize is included on an EU seed list, GM crops could not be 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.