"There is no requirement in the EU legislation about public consent. I continue to believe that this is a serious problem," Michael Meacher, UK Environment Minister
"There is strong opposition to these trials at both local and national level," Richard Edwards, Welsh Assembly Member
GM crop tests 'imminent'
May 2 2001
By Clive Betts, The Western Mail
All hopes of maintaining a GM-free Wales will be dashed tomorrow if genetically-modified seeds are sown in Pembrokeshire. The two 14-acre fields near Mathry designated for the tests of the seeds's safety have been ploughed in the last two days, and local farmers fear the T25 maize will be sown imminently, while the weather is still good.
The planned sowings - others are intended at Sealand in Flintshire - created fury in the county yesterday for wrecking the National Assembly's policy of creating a Welsh farming industry based on quality output of natural foods.
Rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones conceded he had no powers to enforce a GM-free policy: "If I were to prohibit the trials in the absence of scientific and legal justifications there would be a very high risk of an award of very substantial damages against the Assembly."
But while the chance the trials could be stopped appears slim the speed at which the crops look likely to be planted is certain to shock many.
The police appear to be preparing for trouble with senior officers yesterday meeting with Jill Chambers, one of the landowners at the centre of the row, to view the fields where the planting will take place.
Veteran local publisher Dr Brian John said: "There is no way that police of such high rank would be around the farm except for a fear of disruption. There is no formal organisation in opposition, but I would expect to see lots of people turning up and taking action such as lying down in the road. People are very worked up and frightened."
Dr John said there would be considerable concern were Miss Chambers and her land-owning partner, former Conservative MP Tony Marlow, to sow in advance of a meeting - believed to have been arranged for the weekend - with scientists trying to persuade them to abandon the trials.
Protester Val Jones, organiser of a 6,000-signature petition presented to the Assembly yesterday by two Pembrokeshire AMs, said: "Feelings are very strong among both organic farm-ers and other opponents."
The petition calls for the acceptance of the wish of the democratically elected representatives of the National Assembly".
Richard Edwards, one of the AMs who presented the petition to First Minister Rhodri Morgan, said: "There is strong opposition to these trials at both local and national level. This is illustrated by this petition and by the numerous protest meetings currently being held in north Pembrokeshire.
"I and Christine Gwyther, the AM for the south of the county, are concerned that these feelings do not go unnoticed by the Assembly."
Organic farmer Tom Latter said: "The advice that the authorities are working on in allowing these trials to take place is not up to date. Cross-pollination is not as important as the spread of genes from the crop."
Cheese-maker Leon Downing said legal action was being planned against the GM group: "We are meeting at once to discuss such action."
Mr Downing - whose business has been threatened with the loss of a major wholesale and retail outlet in London because of the proximity of GM sowings - said: "We must fight on behalf of the medium and small farmers who are concentrating on providing good food."
Legal action is being encouraged by the National Assembly. Mr Jones said: "It is up to the farmers to take their own legal action, claiming that their human rights have been breached by insufficient distance existing between their own fields and those where the GM plantings are taking place.They should take a case to the European Court of Justice."