GM maize sunk by Welsh Assembly / Pressure grows to stop GM in Scotland (25/3/2004)

GM maize sunk by Welsh Assembly/Pressure grows to stop GM in Scotland

1.GM maize sunk by Welsh Assembly
2.Lib Dems urged to oppose GM crops
3.New bid to prevent growth of GM crops

1.GM maize sunk by Welsh Assembly
Press release from GM Free Cymru
24 March 2004.  Immediate release

It was confirmed this evening that Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly's Environment Minister, has agreed that he will not add Chardon LL maize to the National Seeds List without the authorization of the Assembly through a free vote on the issue.

The Minister has a UK veto on the listing of GM seeds, and on this matter he has given up his delegated powers and agreed to follow the majority wishes of Assembly members.

This means effectively that Chardon LL will not now be added to the Seeds Register, and that there is no hope at all that it could be grown anywhere in the UK before its current Part C consent expires in October 2006.

In today's debate on GM, instigated by the Lib Dems, the Minister was forced to make his statement on a free vote by a threat from a number of Labour AMs to abstain or vote for the Lib Dem motion.  In the event the motion was defeated by 26 votes to 29, and the significance of the Minister's pledge went almost unnoticed in the welter of party-political points scoring.

Significantly, not a single AM spoke in favour of GM generally, or for the seed listing of Chardon LL maize.

Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said this evening:  "This is fantastic news for Wales and for the rest of the UK. There is not the slightest chance that when -- if ever -- the listing of Chardon LL comes up for debate in the Assembly, it will be approved.

"Whatever their party politics may be, Assembly members are remarkably well informed on GM issues, and there are many problems related to Chardon LL which are only just coming to light.  The science which has brought Chardon LL this close to commercialization is corrupt, and we hope that Bayer CropScience will now withdraw the various applications for GM maize and for Liberty herbicide which are still on the table."

GM Free Cymru, which has lobbied hard for this decision along with many other organizations across the UK, feels that the thousands of messages that have poured in to Assembly members over the past week have not only reflected public opposition to GM technology but have sent a corporate raspberry in the direction of Margaret Beckett.  On the 9th March she famously flouted the wishes of the British people and the advice of the Environmental Audit Committee by announcing that Chardon LL would be commercialized.

In concluding the GM Free Cymru statement, Dr John said: "We applaud what Carwyn Jones has done here. He is a very brave politician.  It is not often that a Minister passes a small part of his delegated responsibilities back to an elected chamber, but that is what he has done.  This is a triumph for democracy, and if the Westminster government now tries to by-pass or over-ride this  decision by the Assembly Cabinet, it will have a massive political crisis on its hands."

Contact:  Brian John   tel 01239-820470

2.Lib Dems urged to oppose GM crops

PRESSURE was last night mounting on the Scottish Liberal Democrats to vote against the introduction of GM crops in Scotland when the subject is debated for a second time by the Scottish Parliament today.

Julia Clarke, Scottish spokeswoman for the Consumers' Association, Europe's largest such organisation, said Liberal Democrat MSPs should "vote with their principles", rather than backing the Scottish Executive position.

Mrs Clarke, who will front a demonstration outside the parliament during the Scottish Green Party debate on GM crops, said the public had not been persuaded of the need for GM foods and politicians should take account of that.

Her comments come just one week after Liberal Democrat MSPs were accused of caving in to the Executive to protect the coalition as the Executive escaped a parliamentary defeat over its policy on GM crops by just one vote. Her call also came as the Scottish Greens highlighted a new legal opinion on GM crops which concluded that the Executive had not used all the powers at its disposal to block GM maize, despite the official argument that ministers have to abide by European law.

Last week, a motion put forward by the SNP had called on Scottish ministers to use all their powers to block the commercial growing of geneticallymodified maize after the Executive and UK government gave qualified consent to the GM maize crop the previous week.

The motion was defeated by just one vote with 14 of the Liberal Democrats' 17 MSPs backing the Executive, while another, John Farquhar Munro, who has in the past spoken out passionately against the commercialisation of GM in Scotland, abstained.

Opposition parties immediately accused the Liberal Democrats of abandoning their policies and selling out the democratic process.

The last Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto states that until the public debate on GM is concluded, they would not permit any further GM field trials or commercial growing of GM crops.

Mrs Clarke last night argued that the public debate had not been concluded, stating: "The Liberal Democrats have done a deal and the vote last week was lost by just one which goes against what the public want.

"We want Liberal Democrat MSPs to vote against this along with their principles because the public don't see the need for GM crops and don't want them.

"We are not anti-GM, but there is no scientific proof that they are beneficial and people want the precautionary principle applied."

In an appeal to all parties in advance of the debate, Green MSP Mark Ruskell said the issue was one of "political will".

Referring to the legal opinion he said: "The fresh opinion states that on three counts a much stronger position could have been adopted by the Executive on GM.

"This leaves the arguments that Labour and Liberal MSPs made last week looking decidedly shaky. I think we were right to conclude that all the talk about voluntary bans was indeed simply a smokescreen to cover up the lack of political will to truly act.

"The Liberals need to have a long hard think about their position because it is not only the Executive parties that will suffer from shadowy decision making - it demeans and undermines the parliament in the eyes of the public."

However, a spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said the Consumer Association and others had to recognise that the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Executive were limited by European law.

"If the Consumers' Association want to join us in campaigning for more autonomy on GM crop issues for devolved administrations then that is to be welcomed, but it is not in the interests of consumers for them to be told that the parliament has powers which it does not," he said.

The Scottish Greens' motion requests a review of the legal basis on which GM decisions are made.

3.New bid to prevent growth of GM crops
By Steve Bargeton, political editor
The Courier (Tayside & Fife)
Thursday, March 25, 2004

A FRESH attempt will be made today to stop genetically modified (GM) crops being grown in Scotland.

Last week the Scottish Executive escaped a parliamentary defeat over its policy on GM crops by a single vote.

In a controversial move ministers have given the green light to the commercial  cultivation of Chardon LL maize arguing that they had no legal basis to refuse consent since there was no scientific evidence that it presented any health or environmental risks.

But the Scottish Greens have obtained a new legal opinion which, they say, casts doubt on the Executive's legal position.

Today they will use their time in Parliament to debate the issue again and force MSPs to once more vote to block commercially grown GM crops in Scotland.

The new independent legal opinion, by an Advocate at the Scottish Bar, concludes that the Executive could have used powers to block GM maize cultivation.

The Greens want MSPs to back a motion calling for a review of the Executive's  GM position in light of the new legal opinion and reported back to  Parliament.

"This is a straightforward issue of political will," said Mid Scotland and Fife Green MSP Mark Ruskell.

"The fresh legal opinion says, on three counts, that a much stronger position could have been adopted by the Scottish Executive on GM.

"This leaves the arguments that Labour and Lib Dem MSPs made last week looking decidedly shaky.

"I think we were right to conclude that all the talk about 'voluntary bans' was indeed simply a smokescreen to cover up the lack of political will to truly act.

"The scientific jury is still well out on GM, and the public remain extremely suspicious. As responsible politicians, we need to make sure that the law is being used in the public interest and not to assist the biotech companies."

The opening paragraph of the Green's legal opinion states, "I am satisfied that it is arguable that the Scottish Executive has not used all measures  available to it to prevent the future commercial sowing of Chardon LL genetically modified maize."  


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