THE WEEKLY WATCH number 65 (25/3/2004)

from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

Dear all,

It's been an emotional rollercoaster of a week in the UK. On 24 March we heard the bad news: that by a narrow majority the Welsh Assembly had voted against the Lib Dem motion to veto the addition of Bayer's Chardon LL GM maize to the UK seed list.

Although not a single Assembly Member spoke in favour of GM in the debate, some Labour members who oppose GM voted to defeat the motion because it was critical of the actions of the Westminster Labour government in approving the GM maize. GM Free Cymru had pleaded with Assembly Members not to allow "a matter of such great importance for the environment and people of the UK [to] force disagreement on party political lines" - but to no avail.

However, Environment Minister Carwyn Jones was forced, under threat by some Labour members to vote with the Lib Dems or abstain, to allow the matter to be decided not by the ministerial Cabinet but by a free vote in the Assembly. If Carwyn Jones keeps his promise, the vote will go against Chardon LL and because the support of Wales is necessary for national seed listing this would prevent commercialisation of Chardon LL throughout the UK.

Note that a free vote in the Assembly was one of the requests made by many of you who lobbied the Assembly Members prior to the vote, so well done everyone!

Meanwhile, in Australia the States are treating the Federal Government's desire for GM commercialisation with equal contempt. Look out for lots more of interest in HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK - GLOBAL.

Claire    [email protected] /




In an extraordinary victory for democracy, on 24 March Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly's Environment Minister, agreed that he will not add Chardon LL maize to the National Seeds List without the authorization of the Assembly through a free vote.

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 (AMs).  

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

In a debate on GM on 24 March, 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 raspberry in the direction of Margaret Beckett. On 9 March she 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."

Anti-organic/pro-GM enthusiast Tony Trewavas garnered headlines back in the autumn by announcing he was retiring from the GM debate in the face (he claimed) of threats and intimidation.

But since then Edinburgh's answer to Lazarus has been quoted supporting GM in the press and given a talk on organic farming. Rumours of TT's demise have obviously been greatly exaggerated and, as ever, it's TT that has supplied the misinformation!

Recently, TT attacked a new book by Dr Colin Tudge, 'So Shall We Reap, an analysis of world food production'.

You can catch the flavour of the review from this excerpt: "Tudge reserves his venom for GM crops, condemning the scientists who produce such 'monstrosities' as obviously corrupt, as well as mad, bad and dangerous. I found this chapter to be a muddle of politics and naturalism, failing to adequately distinguish objective scientific knowledge from subjective assessments of Western agribusiness and nature."

The "muddled" Dr Tudge is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Philosophy at the London School of Economics and a three-time winner of the Glaxo/ABSW Science Writer of the Year Award, as well as the former features editor of New Scientist. He is, in fact, a scientifically conservative critic of the technology, who has written, "The prime task for people seriously interested in humanity's food problems is to help the world's small farmers. Technical up-grading is desirable, and could include GM." It is the curren


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