Wales consults on tighter GM contamination laws

A field of wheat
Although it is not legally possible to make Wales GM-free, the nation's government is legislating to keep GM crops to a minimum
A consultation by the Welsh Assembly Government proposes more stringent measures to protect Wales's farmers from the threat of cross-contamination by GM crops

The Welsh Assembly Government’s crusade against genetically modified crops continues with a proposal for tighter regulations to protect Welsh farmers from the fallout of accidental GM crop contamination.

Publishing a consultation on the subject last Tuesday [30 June], rural affairs minister Elin Jones reiterated the right of farmers in Wales to grow – and consumers to buy – food that had not been genetically modified.

‘The Welsh Assembly Government’s long-standing position is to adopt the most restrictive policy on GM crops that is compatible with European Union and UK legislation,’ she said. ‘It is not legally possible to declare Wales GM-free, but we will continue our restrictive approach.’

The consultation – Proposals for Managing the Coexistence of GM, Conventional and Organic Crops in Wales – is asking for views on GM-free zones, a ban on GM crops in National Parks and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, strict liabilities on GM farmers and a redress mechanism for non-GM farmers adversely affected by GM crops.

Also suggested is a statutory and publicly accessible national crop register, with the requirement that GM crops be registered with the Assembly Government three months before being planted, as well as a statutory requirement to inform neighbours and other local landowners of their presence.

Training for those handling GM crops and obligatory record-keeping have also been proposed, in addition to buffer zones and significant ‘isolation distances’ to keep GM and non-GM crops separate.

‘The intention is for co-existence to be tightly regulated in Wales,’ Jones added. ‘Our proposed measures will be more restrictive than those proposed in England and Northern Ireland.’

‘Polluter pays’ legislation already holds growers and consent-holders in Wales liable for any damage caused by GM crops.

The consultation closes on 22 September 2009.

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