15 July 1998
Barrister admits GM trials could be illegal
By Jonathan Riley
THE legality of all seed trials – including those of genetically modified crops – has been thrown into question during the appeal hearing of organic farmer Guy Watson.
Mr Watson, who farms near Totnes in Devon, has challenged environment minister Michael Meachers refusal to halt a genetically modified crop trial in a neighbours field.
Judge Mr Justice Jowitt ruled last Friday that Mr Watson had no arguable case. But during the appeal against that decision, Mr Watsons lawyer, Michael Fordham, claimed that the GM crop trial should never have been given the all-clear.
“This trial is being permitted in disregard of the requirements of the law,” Mr Fordham told the High Court in London today.
Mr Fordham argued that, in allowing the trial to go ahead, the government had ignored requirements laid down by the Seeds Regulations Act of 1982 and the Environmental Protection Act of 1990.
In response, the governments barrister, Mark Hoskins, acknowledged that all existing seeds trials could technically be illegal.
The actual legal procedure for seed trials is somewhat complicated. Under present regulations, data from two years of trials must be submitted to the government before seeds can be included on the national seeds list.
For some reason, it appears that hasnt been happening for the past three years.
“This means that technically all seed trials conducted for the national list have been illegal since 1995,” claimed Richard Young of the pro-organic Soil Association.
The appeal hearing continues tomorrow (Thursday).