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6-Regulation: GE-free news from Scotland and Wales

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Green MSPs back bid to make GM seed companies pay
        Scottish Parliament effort would put precautionary principle first 
SOURCE: Green Party Scotland, UK
DATE:   Jul 10, 2003

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Green MSPs back bid to make GM seed companies pay
Scottish Parliament effort would put precautionary principle first 

Draft legislation that would make GM seed companies liable for any damage
they may do to other farmers' livelihoods has won enough support for it
to be introduced in the next session of the Scottish Parliament.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell wants to make GM seed companies pay compensation
to conventional or organic farmers if their crops are damaged through
cross-pollination or processing.

Mr Ruskell said that if GM seed companies cannot guarantee that other
crops would not be damaged, it would be "commercial suicide" to grow them
under his proposed law.

This view is supported by a Downing Street report released today which
says there is no economic argument for growing GM crops in the UK.

Mr Ruskell, who is the Scottish Green Party's environment spokesperson,
said today: "We still support a GM moratorium in Scotland and believe
that the Executive as the necessary powers to declare Scotland GM-free,
but we need to become increasingly sophisticated in protecting the future
of Scottish food and farming.

"Ensuring the companies bear the brunt of the responsibility for GM
places the onus on them to develop technologies that are genuinely
benign. If they can't, then introducing GM crops would be commercial
suicide under this proposed law.

"This bill has every chance of making it into law as I believe a majority
of MSPs want to see the biotechnology companies take full responsibility
for the harmful GM contamination incidents that could arise in Scotland
both now and in the future."

Mr Ruskell's bill proposal has received support from 17 MSPs so far,
including Scottish Nationalists, Scottish Socialists and independents.

Contact: Green Party Media Office for further information

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Ministers lobbied over GM crops
SOURCE: British Broadcasting Corporation
DATE:   Jul 10, 2003

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Ministers lobbied over GM crops

The Scottish Executive is being urged to oppose the commercial growing of
genetically modified crops north of the border. Friends of the Earth
Scotland said that allowing the commercial growth of certain GM strains
could lead to other wild plants being contaminated. The environmental
pressure group's call has been backed by Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who said
GM seed companies should pay compensation to conventional and organic
farmers if their crops are damaged. The Scottish Executive said ensuring
that other crops cannot be affected has been a key factor in choosing
trial sites. The UK Government is set to make a decision later this year
on whether or not GM crops should be commercially grown. It is seeking
public opinion on the issue and has launched a website allowing people to
have their say in the GM debate.

Wild plants

Friends of the Earth is warning that allowing the large-scale growth of
GM crops, like oil seed rape, will almost certainly lead to widespread
contamination of other non-GM plants. It said that research carried out
in France suggests pollen from oil seed rape could be carried by wind,
bees and human contact, over large distances to other species of wild
plants. Friends of the Earth believe this cross-breeding could result in
the creation of superweeds, tolerant to many herbicides. Scotland is
currently home to three main sites for GM experiments, in the Black Isle,
Aberdeenshire and Fife.

'Potential disaster'

Friends of the Earth is now lobbying the Scottish Executive not to allow
GM crops to be grown commercially in Scotland. Mr Ruskell said the
research only hinted at the effect GM contamination could have on related
species. "Every week now the jigsaw of evidence against GM
commercialisation is building up into a vision of potential disaster for
the environment and the farming industry," he said. "If the executive has
adopted a 'precautionary principle' over GM then it must take those
precautions now and block the commercialisation process in Scotland." A
Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: "The executive considers that it
would be premature to consent to further applications in advance of the
outcome of the GM Public Debate and the results of the Farm Scale
Evaluations. "The potential for GM crops to cross-pollinate wild plant
relatives is considered as part of the detailed risk assessment that
proposed GMO releases have to go through." 

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: The University of Glamorgan, UK, Press Release
DATE:   Jul 9, 2003

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[downlaod report at:]

The potential for a "GM-free Wales" is becoming an increasingly important
policy objective of the National Assembly of Wales, particularly in light
of the decision of the EU parliament, on 2nd July 2003, to allow the
import and sale of GM food products provided that they are clearly labelled.

As a contribution to this debate, Dr Denis Murphy of the Biotechnology
Unit at the University of Glamorgan has compiled a detailed report on the
concept of a "GM-free Wales".

The main conclusions of Dr Murphy's report are:
- The policy of a "GM-free Wales" is not practically feasible following
the EU approval of GM crops - Wales cannot "go it alone"
- The policy is not legally enforceable - as admitted by some of its
original proponents
- The policy would not contribute towards enhancing the economic
competitiveness of Welsh agriculture
- The policy could adversely affect the very small number of arable
farmers who may wish to grow GM maize or oilseed rape crops by
restricting their choice of varieties compared to other farmers in the EU
- The policy would not materially assist the organic farming sector
- GM-free Wales" would not significantly benefit the environment - all of
the major risks to the Welsh environment lie elsewhere

The GM-free Welsh Environment campaign was launched in July 1999, with
the support of many Assembly Members (AMs), including the leaders of the
Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives and was
publicly backed at the highest levels:

The concept of a GM-free Wales has been promoted by a number of anti-GM
campaigners, however, as Dr Murphy's report points out, local self-
declared GM-free zones may be regarded as a mechanism for registering or
publicising a protest against such crops but would have no legal or
scientific basis.

The only Welsh crops that are realistic candidates for the introduction
of GM varieties within the next few years are oilseed rape, maize and
possibly fodder beet. The conclusion in the report is that Wales is an
extremely small producer of arable crops and, when potential GM crops are
considered, any Welsh contribution would be tiny.

This may be seen at first sight as an argument in favour of a GM-free
Wales. After all, if so little of Welsh agriculture is devoted to
potential GM crops like maize, oilseed rape and fodder beet, surely their
elimination will have hardly any effect on the rest of Welsh agriculture?

However, the fact that Wales produces so few arable crops also means that
the introduction of GM maize, oilseed rape and fodder beet will have
little or no effect on other sectors of agriculture.

As Dr Murphy points out, neither the recently published National Assembly
report on organic farming policy in Wales, nor the Minister's response to
the report, has any mention of GM crops. This is despite the oft-quoted
pronouncements of dire consequences for organic farming that will
inevitably follow from the introduction of GM crops.

"Of more general concern than the small organic sector is the potential
impact of GM crops on the Welsh environment as a whole," says Dr Murphy,
"Especially as the environment is arguably one of the key national assets
in Wales."

However, his report surmises that rather than being solely hazardous to
the environment, GM crops can also enable farmers to implement
environmentally friendly practices like zero-tilling or integrated weed
management in their fields.

The caveat that Dr Murphy adds is that these GM crops might lead to the
emergence of herbicide tolerant weeds if they out-crossed with weedy
relatives and use of Bt crop varieties may increase likelihood of the
emergence of resistant insects.

Subsequently, the conclusion to which Dr Murphy arrives is that there
will be very little, if any effect on Welsh agriculture, whether
conventional or organic, from creating a GM-free Wales.

Many people have concerns about the impact of GM food but Dr Murphy
argues that a GM-free Wales will make no difference to such worries. This
is because, for the vast majority of Welsh people, virtually all their
food is imported from outside Wales.

The removal of a few hundred hectares of potential GM maize or oilseed
rape will have no material effect on organic farmers, who will continue
to import their animal feed from outside Wales as they do now.

There is no prospect of any other commercial GM crops that could be grown
in Wales for many years to come. Therefore, Dr Murphy argues that it is
difficult to see how a GM-free status could be used in any promotional or
marketing exercise for Welsh produce that would have any real meaning or
scientific validity.

"If one were to draw up a balance sheet of the potential risks and
benefits of the major environmental issues that we face in Wales, the
possible adverse effects of GM crops would be far less serious than any
of the other more immediate and threatening challenges, such as the
consequences of overstocking of sheep and the rampant, unchecked spread
of alien species" claims Dr Murphy.

"Although a "GM-free Wales" is extremely unlikely in reality, it remains
a popular slogan with some sections of the public. "GM-free Wales" is
also vigorously promoted by some very active pressure groups."

"Agriculture, biotechnology and GM crops are complex issues that have the
potential to affect our daily lives, especially our food and the
environment, in which we live and work. As such, these issues deserve
detailed reflection, discussion and consultation leading to informed and
considered decision-making, based on the best available information and
in the best interests of the people of Wales."


Issued by
The University of Glamorgan
9th July, 2003
For more information contact:

Rhys Evans
Press & PR Officer
University of Glamorgan
T: (01443) 483 362


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