GM Free Cymru

Welsh Groups welcome Assembly Government stance on GM liability

Press Notice 4 March 2008

Consumer and environmental groups in Wales have warmly welcomed a new  Assembly document which underpins the long-standing policy commitment  to keep GM crops out of Wales. The draft Environmental Damage  (Prevention and Remediation) (Wales) Regulations 2008 (1) are  designed to implement the European Environmental Liability Directive,  which seeks to ensure that in contamination incidents the "polluter  pays" principle is applied effectively.

The GM Free Wales Alliance (2)  has now written to Rural Affairs  Minister Elin Jones to congratulate her and the Assembly Government  on this latest step in the protection of Welsh farming and the Welsh  environment.

In England, the Westminster Government recognizes that GM  contamination is potentially harmful, but its draft regulations  effectively make it impossible to pin liability on the operator or  permit holder in cases where environmental or economic damage occurs,  or where neighbouring farmers may suffer consequential loss.   NGOs  are already describing the new English Regulation as a disaster, and  as a green light for large-scale GM contamination of the countryside.

In Wales, however, the Assembly Government has followed its own  agenda, which is much more closely in tune with national sentiment  and with representations made over a year ago by many organizations  including RSPB, FoE, and GM Free Cymru.  The key points of departure  from the English regulation mean that in Wales:

1.  Permit holders such as Monsanto and Bayer will be held liable for  local contamination or "genetic trespass",  as will the farmers or  operators who plant and harvest GM crops.

2.  Operators who cause damage will not be able to claim immunity on  the basis that they held a permit or consent for the release of GMOs  from a "competent authority" or from any other EU body.

3.  Neither will they be able to mount a defence on the basis that  the state of scientific knowledge at the date of the permit suggested  that the GMO was harmless or unlikely to spread by cross- contamination or other means.

4.  If extensive damage is caused by GMOs, the GM company which  developed the crop is deemed to be liable for all types of  environmental damage (biodiversity, water, land) and the rules of  strict liability will apply.

5.  In cases where damage is proved, the GM permit holders and  operators will have to meet all costs which might otherwise be  carried by the taxpayer --administrative, legal and enforcement  costs, costs of data collection and research etc.

6.  Protection is afforded to all natural habitats and sites of  special scientific interest in Wales -- and that does not just  include designated SSSIs but also sites with many other "protected"  designations (such as National Parks and local nature reserves) as well.

7.  Where GM crops directly or indirectly (eg through the spray drift  of associated chemicals) harm water bodies, streams and rivers, the  permit holder and operator will be held responsible.

8.  Local authorities in Wales may be able to act as "agents" for the  Welsh "competent authority" in identifying GM contamination incidents  and in taking enforcement action.  This would represent a very  welcome delegation of powers into the communities most likely to be  harmed by genetic pollution.

Commenting on the draft Regulation,  GM Free Cymru spokesperson Gill  Rowlands said:  " It is excellent that Elin Jones and the Welsh  Assembly Government have taken a bold step and acted on behalf of the  people of Wales to protect our very special environment.  They have  also placed the financial responsibility of cleaning up any  environmental damage caused by the planting of GM crops firmly in the  pocket of the polluter and not the people."

In a further comment  Dr Brian John noted that the Welsh Assembly had  moved significantly away from  the DEFRA line on GM crops.  "We know  already that it is impossible for farmers to obtain insurance against  the damage that may be associated with GM crop plantings (3),"  he  said.  "Not even NFU Mutual will provide cover, in spite of the fact  that the NFU is aggressively promoting GM crop plantings.  Permit  holders like Monsanto also refuse to accept liability.  We all know  that the comfortable "coexistence" which the EC and the British  Government refer to frequently is an absolute impossibility (4).  The  accumulating evidence from around the world shows that GM and non-GM  crops cannot be planted in the same district, even with large  separation distances, without GM contamination occurring.  It is  right and proper that those who are responsible for genetic trespass,  environmental damage and economic damage must be forced, through  legislation such as this, to face up to the full consequences of  their actions."


Contacts: Gill Rowlands 01437-720227 Brian John 01239-820470



1.  The draft regulations for both England and Wales are here: The draft regulations are now subject to a public consultation which  ends on 27 May.  The final form of the Regulations must be adopted in  Wales by the end of 2008.

(2)  The GM Free Wales Alliance consists of FoE Cymru, GM Free Cymru,  the National Federation of Women's Institutes (Wales) and the FUW.

(3)  See the following: Environmentandland/Ruralandnaturalassets/Agricultural/rics%20view% 20gmo%20land%20register.html "Even NFU Mutual, the insurance arm of the National Farmers' Union,  which is in favour of GM crops, will not provide insurance for  farmers wanting to grow GM crops. A spokesman said the company  believed the risks were not fully understood and advised farmers to   seek cover through the biotechnology companies that own the patent to  GM seeds." ngm08.xml GM_STRICT_LIABILITY_NEEDED_AS_BIOTECH_COMPANIES_HIDE_FROM_COSTS.html

(4)  "Canada introduced GM canola in 1995. Within two years it became  apparent that segregation of GM and non-GM canola was failing. Now it  is impossible to segregate the two, and farmers have no choice but to  market all canola as GM." existence-recommendations-legally-flawed