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2-Plants: UK officials under new public pressure

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TITLE:  A) Ministers face new row on GM crops
        B) Government in chaos over GM seeds
        C) Britain's plan to list GM maize seed set for delay
SOURCE: A) The Scotsman, UK, by John Ross, edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
        B) Friends of the Earth UK, Press Release
        C) Reuters, by Elizabeth Piper
DATE:   A+B) November 9, 2000
        C) November 10, 2000

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A) Ministers face new row on GM crops

The Scottish executive will, according to this story, come under fire on 
two fronts today over its decision to support GM crop trials in the 
Highlands without prior consultation with local people. The story says that 
executive officials will attend a public meeting in Fortrose in the Black 
Isle, near the farm at Munlochy where the trials of genetically modified 
oilseed rape are going ahead.

Objectors have criticised Ross Finnie, the rural affairs minister, for his 
"cavalier and arrogant" attitude having decided not to attend the event. 
Andrew Thompson, of the Highlands and Islands GM Concern action group, was 
quoted as saying, "It is not right that he should delegate the job of 
justifying his ministerial actions to his civil servants. Mr Finnie took 
the decision to allow this trial crop to be planted, without allowing any 
opportunity for local consultation, and we believe he should have the 
decency to respond to our repeated requests for a meeting by attending this 
event in person."

The decision to arrange a public meeting represented a U-turn for Mr Finnie 
who originally wanted to hold an invitation-only gathering. However 
Highland Council refused to chair such an event because it was not be to a 
public event. The GM group says recent revelations that food products in 
the US have been contaminated with GM corn not cleared for human 
consumption have heightened fears about the Highland trials.


B) Government in chaos over GM seeds

Government GM policy was in chaos today when Ministers requested that a 
public hearing into GM crops be postponed indefinitely. The hearing was 
called to hear objections to a Government proposal to allow a type of GM 
maize to be sold to farmers. FOE tonight called on Aventis, the seed 
company that owns the GM seed, to withdraw its application.

The postponement call follows revelations that official basic tests on 
Chardon LL, a type of GM maize, had only been conducted for 1 year by the 
French authorities rather than the 2 required under EU law. The UK 
Government is now waiting for guidance from the EU Commission, as the 
defects in the French testing regime have serious EU-wide implications. The 
revelation that test data hasn't met legal requirements only came to light 
after Friends of the Earth and members of the public forced the Government 
to hold a public hearing [1] into the proposed listing of Chardon LL. 
During the hearing, expert scientific witnesses have produced evidence that 
casts severe doubt over the validity of allowing the seed to be listed. 
They include concerns over the failure to test the GM maize on cows, and 
"suspicious" higher death rates among chickens eating the GM maize during 

The 5th week of the scheduled 9 week-hearing was due to start in Manchester 
on Monday 13th November. It will now start on Wednesday 15th November, when 
the parties can make representations on what should happen next. Peter 
Roderick , legal advisor at Friends of the Earth said: "Once again the 
Government's GM policy is in chaos. This is a desperate effort to buy time 
to sort out this mess with the Commission and the biotech industry. But 
even if this latest cock-up hadn't occurred we think the weight of 
scientific evidence against listing is overwhelming. Aventis should fall on 
its sword,concede defeat and withdraw its application."


[1] In April, the Government announced its intention to allow Chardon LL, 
which has been genetically modified to be resistant to Aventis' own 
herbicide, on to the national seed list. This is the final legal barrier 
before a seed can be sold to farmers. However, FOE discovered a little-
known law which gave the public the right to appeal against the decision. 
Sixty seven groups and individuals paid pounds 60 to have their objections 
heard in public, with hundreds more filing written objections (which cost 
pounds 30).Aventis refused to produce any evidence at the hearing. Website:


C) Britain's plan to list GM maize seed set for delay

LONDON - Britain's plans to register gene-modified maize were headed for 
further delay yesterday when the government asked for an adjournment of a 
public hearing on the GM seed's inclusion on the National Seed List. The 
farm ministry said officials needed to look into queries about earlier 
tests on the maize - Aventis's herbicide tolerant Chardon LL - and asked 
the barrister conducting the hearing to adjourn it until a later date. "I 
have been requested by the minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and 
give consideration to adjourning the hearing until...the full implications 
of the situation for the status of the Chardon LL hearing can be 
definitively established," barrister Alun Alesbury said in a statement. "My 
preliminary view is that in the circumstances which have arisen an 
adjournment would be appropriate."

A sitting was scheduled in the northern city of Manchester on November 15 
to decide whether to adjourn the hearing - the results of which have forced 
the ministry to reassess earlier testing of the maize. The ministry said 
earlier it had found that data from French trials were based on one year's 
data from accredited breeders and one year's data from government run 
trials. This fell short of the relevant European Union directive affecting 
seed approval which requires two years worth of official trials.

"Other member states in the EU also rely on French data and the views of 
the commission on the status of the French procedures are being sought," 
the ministry said yesterday. "The UK authorities wish to take account of 
these views before taking a decision on how this affects the Chardon LL 
hearing." A delay in the hearings would be another blow for the government, 
which wants the seeds to registered and has sought to reassure an 
increasingly sceptical public over the safety of genetically modified foods.

The hearing, which began early last month and allows opponents to air their 
views, was forced by environmental group Friends of the Earth after it 
logged 67 objections to the listing of the GM seeds from other interested 
parties. Opponents have long argued that the variety of maize had not been 
properly tested and that allowing genetically modified crops to be 
commercially grown will lead to contamination of non-GM crops.

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