6-Regulation: County Council declares Devon (UK) as GE-free zone
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- Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 12:56:07 +0100
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TITLE: COUNCIL WARNED ITS GM BAN WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STOP GOVERNMENT TESTS
SOURCE: Express & Echo, UK, by Patrick Phelvin
DATE: Jan 14, 2003
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
COUNCIL WARNED ITS GM BAN WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STOP GOVERNMENT TESTS
Plans to establish Devon as a genetically modified-free zone got a
unanimous seal of approval at County Hall yesterday.
Dozens of environmentalists attended to hear a landmark discussion on the
subject by Devon County Council's environment and economy scrutiny
The council will be the first in Britain to declare itself GM free if the
decision receives final approval from its executive committee.
Councillors were outspoken in their condemnation of the technology -
sometimes dubbed 'Frankenstein food'. But the county solicitor, Roger Gash,
warned that the county council's powers to invoke a GM ban were limited
under European law.
If trials in the agriculture technology were given the green light by
central government the council would have no authority to ban farmers from
And even tenants of the council's agricultural land would be under no legal
obligation to steer clear of GM.
However, councillors said they had serious concerns that the food could
jeopardise Devon's standing as a centre for organic farming, as well as
having a potentially devastating impact on health and the environment.
They called for the government to suspend trials of GM crops until more
scientific work was completed.
And they restated their commitment to keep GM produce out of food supplied
by the council.
They also pledged to encourage the council's farm tenants to ban GM animal
feed and stay out of any future crop trials. Speaking against
experimentation with GM in Devon, Roger Giles, vice chairman of the
committee, said he was concerned about the potential environmental and
health problems from genetically altered produce.
"For a long time I have chosen to be careful about what I eat and try to
avoid GM produce," he said.
"I don't think there should be any experimentation in Devon with GM crops.
Why have it here when we are so strong in organic farming?
"We are also on a peninsula and have two coastlines which makes us ideally
placed to be non-GM."
The committee also agreed to approach Cornwall and Somerset with a view to
turning the South West peninsular into a GM free zone.
Councillor Michael Lee, an organic farmer and vice chairman of the
council's farms estate committee, said he was concerned the council was
trying to ignore a development in technology that could benefit many
people, particularly in the third world. "Man has been experimenting with
farming since Adam and Eve," he added.
A statement on GM will now go to the council's executive committee before
it is sent to central government.
But campaigners say the council is not going far enough and will never be
able to guarantee an absence of GM produce in the county.
Exeter FoE chairman Maurice Spurway said: "The council's statement is
rather weak. They had a great opportunity to impact on agriculture as part
of the Devon recovery plan after foot-and-mouth."
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