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Cautious Welcome for Welsh Measures on GM Coexistence Room for tightening proposed measures to protect non-GM growers and beekeepers

Immediate release (30 Jun 2009)

Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065

GM Freeze cautiously welcomes the draft measures published by the Welsh Assembly Government on the coexistence of GM and other crops and believes they “provide a base on which we can ensure that farmers, growers and gardeners can plant crops without fear of GM contamination”.

However, the UK-wide group has identified a number of legal and technical problems with the proposals contained in the WAG consultation document published today. [1]

A legal opinion obtained by GM Freeze [2] on Defra’ s proposals for England published in 2006 said that it was “a flawed approach to the Community legislation” because EU law states, “Member States may take appropriate measures to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in other products”. Currently the WAG proposals for coexistence are “concerned with the measures that will be needed to minimise unwanted mixing of GM and non-GM material”, but not to avoid GM contamination.

The group are also concerned that there are no specific measures to protect Welsh honey from contamination with GM pollen from nearby crops. Early in 2009, a Bavarian court [3] ruled that honey containing GM maize pollen could not be sold.

However, GM Freeze welcomes many of the WAG proposals that, if adopted, would mean:

  • Registration of GM crops and proposed locations for cultivation three months before planting;
  • Compulsory training (for whom?) linked to a code of practice;
  • Mandatory informing of neighbours;
  • National register of GM growing land;
  • Time gaps between same species crops of GM and non GM;
  • Statutory record keeping;
  • WAG responsibility for enforcement;
  • Statutory protection of National Parks and designated wildlife sites;
  • Measures to control volunteer GM crops;
  • Statutory liability for economic damage on the GM sector.

GM Freeze is critical of some of the proposed separation distances and buffer strips, which they believe will not prevent GM pollen crossing with and contaminating neighbouring crops [4]. WAG have not proposed separation distances for oilseed rape “due to concerns about out crossing and seed survival”. GM Freeze believes that it is impossible to avoid GM contamination with this crop and therefore the WAG should consider a national ban.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

The proposals from the Welsh Assembly Government provide a base on which we can ensure that farmers, growers and gardeners can plant crops without fear of GM contamination. We look forward to a productive debate with WAG over the next few months as to how the final laws put before the Welsh Assembly can be strengthened so that contamination can be avoided altogether, as EU law requires. Several EU countries have proposed larger separation distances and WAG should follow their lead. We are delighted that WAG is considering that the GM sector be strictly liable for compensating farmers whose crops are contaminated.

Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065.

Notes
[1] Consultation on Proposals for Managing the Coexistence of GM, Conventional and Organic crops in Wales Welsh Assembly Government, 30 June 2009.

[2] Summary of opinion by Paul Lasok QC available here.

[3] See www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,611582,00.html. GM Freeze special briefing on GM and honey available here.

[4] For more information contact GM Freeze.