By: Sally Williams
This year could be critical in keeping Wales free from genetically-modified (GM) crops, Plaid Cymru claim today.
After many years of debate, lobbying and protest, in December a preliminary agreement was reached between the European Union institutions which would allow countries to legally declare a ban on growing GM crops.
But Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans said it is not all that it seems because it will also open the door to genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in Europe.
She said: “There has been a de facto ban on GMOs for several years because of a stalemate in the European Council – the body made up of government ministers from the 28 member states.
“While certain member states, like the UK, voted time and again in favour of allowing GM crops, others were firmly against and no majority could be achieved. This in turn led to a wholly undemocratic situation where the power to decide on GMOs was passed to the unelected European Commission.”
Mrs Evans said there has been a deadlock as a result of consumer opposition to GMOs.
“The reason we see so few GM products on shop shelves is that people do not want to buy them,” she said. The changes proposed now will allow those countries which want to be GM free to impose their own ban.
“But of course, it also means that the pro-GMO countries can go ahead with planting those crops that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has judged to be ‘safe’ and which have been agreed by the council. They will not be able to grow GMOs which have not been approved by EFSA. We are justly proud of the high standards and high-quality produce of the Welsh agricultural sector and I do not want to see this jeopardised by GM contamination.
“The new law still needs the approval of the European Parliament and we will vote on it in January.
“I expect it to be adopted. This is a crucial decision for Wales and I very much hope that you will contact me with your views on it. I welcome the fact that GMO bans will be legally binding and can be made on environmental grounds but we will undoubtedly see a marked increase in planting and cultivation of GM crops in the EU as a result.”
One problem with national bans on GM crops is the possibility of them spreading across borders.
Crops such as GM oil-seed rape are considered particularly invasive and its spread, contaminating non-GM crops and wild relatives alike, is causing worldwide concern.
Swiss farmers do not want to grow GM crops but genetically-engineered oilseed rape is contaminating the railways and the river port of Basel.
There are also reports of it spreading out of control in North Dakota in the USA and in Western Australia
Originally Published: WalesOnline