GM growers in Wales fear public backlash

Farmers who grow genetically modified crops in Wales are to be named in a national register available for public scrutiny.

The news that rural affairs minister Elin Jones plans to introduce legislation to establish the register has been met with concern that listed farmers could be intimidated.

The minister’s proposal follows a consultation on the Welsh Assembly Government proposals for managing the coexistence of GM, conventional and organic crops in Wales.

The assembly government’s policy is to take the most restrictive and precautionary approach to GM crop cultivation and it held a full public consultation on the options for a coexistence regime for Wales.

This regime aims to minimise unwanted GM presence in non-GM crops.

Ms Jones said it was clear from responses that GM crops remain an emotive issue in Wales.

But, overall, there is support for the assembly to continue its precautionary approach to GM coexistence in Wales, she believed.

“There was particularly strong support for a statutory national register with public access and I propose to introduce legislation for such a register as soon as detailed proposals have been developed,” she said.

But NFU Cymru‘s deputy president, Stephen James, expressed concern on the potential misuse of the register by opponents of GM crops. He feared they could use it to threaten, harass and intimidate named farmers.

“It is especially disappointing that the minister has chosen to go down this route given that a public register of GM feed and food crops is not a European requirement and unfortunately represents an example of gold plating of European legislation,” said Mr James.

“NFU Cymru is well aware of the fact that farmers must produce what consumers want to buy, and we believe that it is this guiding principle, which we believe should help individual farmers reach a decision on whether or not they cultivate GM crops. It would be wrong for government at any level to attempt to engineer a back door ‘ban’ on GM cultivation through the use of an overly restrictive co-existence regime.”

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