Welsh plea to avoid party politics goes unheeded (24/3/2004)


Welsh Assembly Bid to Veto GM Maize Defeated
By Ed Carty and Tomos Livingstone, PA News

An attempt to force the Welsh Assembly to veto the addition of genetically modified maize to the UK seed list failed today.  A motion calling for the move was put forward by Liberal Democrat AM Mick Bates who has previously called for Environment minister Carwyn Jones to use the Assembly veto to block the listing of GM maize.

Mr Bates said: “People do not understand how we can have a national GM debate where the overwhelming opinion is one against GM crops, but the outcome was in favour.”

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett gave a qualified go-ahead for the growing of the Chardon LL maize at the beginning of March.  But the Welsh Assembly has consistently opposed GM crops and any move to give them the go-ahead needs agreement from the Assembly and Scottish parliament.

The Assembly government wants a “co-existence” system agreed before any growth of GM crops, and Mr Jones said it would be “quite wrong” to criticise another UK administration.

“We can well imagine what the response would be if Westminster had passed a resolution criticising our stance. There would be uproar in this chamber.

“It will require the agreement of all four UK administrations before listing can take place within the UK.”

A situation where GM crops were grown in England but not in Wales could not arise, he said.  Mr Jones added: “There is no presumption here that GM crops will be commercialised. Unless co-existence were possible, we could not support the commercialisation of GM crops. I wish to make that quite clear.”

Mr Bates said ordinary farmers would suffer the most if GM crops were introduced. Ensuring adequate compensation for those affected was necessary.  He added: “It should be the polluter that pays, but such a compensation scheme will not be put in place.”

Labour AM Peter Law told Mr Bates: “You have politicised an issue which is a very serious one, and you have actually made it very difficult here, and it’s very unfortunate this afternoon.”

A Government amendment deleting the Lib Dem motion and re-stating the administration’s position was passed by 29 votes to 26.

From GM Free Cymru
Liaison Group
22 March 2004

Dear Assembly Members

We understand that Kirsty Williams AM is bringing a motion on GM to the Assembly for debate on Wednesday of this week.  We have read the wording of this motion, and are saddened that a matter of such great importance for the environment and people of the UK should force disagreement on party political lines. We are of course aware that there is massive opposition to GM crops and foods in Wales, and that this is reflected in the strong statements made from all sides of the Assembly in past debates.  It would be a tragedy if, following Wednesday's debate, the message should go to Westminster that "Wales is as divided as Scotland on the GM issue", giving Margaret Beckett further encouragement to pursue her pro-GM agenda.

Over the past months we have been broadly supportive of what Minister Carwyn Jones has been trying to do on the GM front, although we have been critical of certain aspects of his approach.

Are you prepared to put party politics to one side during the debate on Wednesday, in an attempt to send a strong and unambiguous message to Westminster?   We believe that there could be consensus if just one small part of the motion could be removed -- and we refer to the first part of clause 4.  Without the direct criticism of the Government, and with a further small change, it seems to us that the majority of Labour AMs might well wish to support this motion, and might enable the First Minister to allow a free vote for his party colleagues.

Clause 4 will then be as follows:  ""Directs the Assembly Government to recognize large areas of scientific uncertainty and to refuse to place Chardon LL on the National Seeds List pending new research."

We trust that if this change could be agreed by consultation in advance of the debate, the debate itself can be far more constructive and united in purpose.  Perhaps more important, it will give Carwyn Jones a clear mandate (and legal cover) for refusing to list Chardon LL in the light of the ongoing scientific uncertainty about the impacts of commercial growing.

We will be most grateful if you will act on our request.

Yours sincerely,
Tom Latter
Judy Bruce
Jim Bowen
Gill Rowlands
Brian John
Gerald Miles
Ian Panton
Chris Samra Tibbetts

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive