GM Free Cymru

Draft GM Coexistence Measures for Wales

based upon "Commission Recommendation of 23 July 2003 on guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices to ensure the coexistence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming."

This document was submitted to Carwyn Jones, Rural Affairs Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government, on 18th September 2003.


The following points should be borne in mind:

1.  This is all about "co-existence" and so the wording must conform to the EU mantra that we are seeking to allow GM plantings to proceed alongside conventional and organic plantings.

2.  Other words used are "efficient", "cost-effective", "transparent", "science-based", "equitable", "cooperative" and "proportional"

3.  The driving force behind this is that member states should take appropriate measures to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in food and other products and that these measures should "complement the comprehensive regulatory framework that the EU has set up"

4.  During the phase of introduction of GM farming, those farmers planting GM should be the ones who bear the responsibility for implementing the measures.

5.  Continuous monitoring and evaluation and sharing of best practices are also needed so that measures can be improved over time.  It is implied here that the GM crop growers are the ones who should bear the costs.

6.  Measures should specify the crop type (ie the GM variety should be named) and should be related to the potential for contamination (eg high for GM rape but lower for GM potatoes) but local farming practices and landscape / ecology could be important.

7.  If special pleading is needed for the introduction of very strict measures in Wales, this could be based on the very high percentage of the country which is protected by law.  Some of the protected designations are EU designations, and others are specific to the UK.  Info needed from CCW?

8.  Another very important point -- guideline 2.2.2 says it is important to look at the cumulative effects of GM contamination, which in the case of oilseed rape (according to Dr Jeremy Sweet) will lead eventually to 100% contamination by GM seeds and hybrids.  On this basis, we believe that the Assembly could simply refuse to allow any GM oilseed rape to be planted in Wales.  With other crops, the Assembly should consider whether the cumulative effects of contamination from different sources would lead, over a few years, to unacceptably high levels of contamination in conventional and organic crops.  In  our view this will happen, with ALL the GM crops currently under consideration.

9.  Another key point is that these measures should be driven by ECONOMIC considerations, and would be additional to any measures which the Welsh Assembly might bring in on health or environmental grounds.


1.  Assembly will only authorise a GM release into the environment where it is advised by ACRE and other consulted advisory bodies that the crop "is not capable of causing harm to human health or the environment."  (This is already Assembly policy.)

2.  Assembly will make Environmental Prohibition Orders for all GM plantings in Wales, prohibiting the plantings unless the responsible party can show that there are no other plantings of related varieties within 6 km of the planting site. (A 200m separation distance is clearly inadequate, and must be greatly increased.)  Presumably EPOs could be brought in for all protected landscapes in Wales, including National Parks, SSSIs, SACs, Nature Reserves, etc, on the basis that any GM plantings in those areas would threaten biodiversity and ecology?  Environmental Protection Act and Cartagena Protocol could be adduced here.  Could there also be EPOs creating "exclusion zones" or "cordons sanitaires" around the borders of protected areas?

3.  Assembly, bearing in mind the local characteristics of small-scale farming in Wales, the close juxtaposition of holdings operated on organic and conventional lines, and local ecological and climatic conditions, will impose on-farm measures on a case-by-case basis where a farmer proposes to plant a GM crop.  These management measures may include on-farm isolation distances, buffer zones, installation of pollen barriers down-wind, and prohibition of plantings of related non-GM varieties for 2 or more years following the harvesting of the GM crop.

3.  Assembly will insist that a farmer proposing to plant a GM crop cooperates with all neighbours within 10 km of the planting site and informs them regularly on designated dates of sowing plans, precise characteristics of the GM variety proposed, anticipated flowering time, spraying regimes, harvesting date, and biosecurity measures in place to avoid cross-pollination and accidental spillage of GM seed.

4.  Assembly will insist that applicants for GM crop plantings demonstrate that they have taken due account of local policies approved by County Councils, National Park Authorities and other tiers of local government. Where there is a clearly expressed democratic wish for a county or region to remain GM-Free, GM plantings, if they go ahead, could result in civil disorder and high costs incurred in policing, prosecution of protestors etc. Neighbours may also suffer incidental economic damage.  Applicants for GM plantings must indemnify the Assembly and local authorities against all costs that may be involved in these actions.

5.  Being mindful of the current trend within Wales for the use of contractors and Machinery Rings in drilling, crop management and harvesting, and seed transport onto and off the farm, Assembly will insist that all machinery which comes into contact with GM material and which subsequently moves off-farm is cleaned, sprayed and sterilized to at least the same standards as used in IGER seed trials, accredited seed lots etc.  Machines must also carry biosecurity signs (skull and crossbones?!) when transporting GM materials off-farm, and they must carry biosecurity labels indicating the dates of contact with specified GM varieties.  This is all necessary to avoid unintended spillages of seed/mud mixtures and use of machines, for example, on a GM maize field in Tenby on one day and on an organic maize field in Haverfordwest on the next day.  Spillages on roadways are also well known (cf NIAB Report / Jeremy Sweet correspondence), leading to adventitious occurrences of GM plants on highway corridors.  Even more onerous measures might be employed on machines operating in protected areas (eg National Parks).  The GM crop applicant must take responsibility for informing machinery contractors of these measures, must ensure that all biosecurity rules are followed, and must carry all costs involved.

6. Assembly will insist that all GM plantings are notified to the general public through press notices, farm-gate notices etc at least three months ahead of the proposed planting date.  The fields concerned must be clearlyu identified through the use of six-figure grid references. If more than 100 local residents protest against the planting, the applicant must call a public meeting and must take due account of the feelings of the meeting.  If the meeting requests that the proposed GM crop planting should be abandoned, the Assembly may refuse to authorise it.

7.  Being mindful of the need for careful monitoring of biosecurity, GM crop management procedures, and the risks of cross-pollination, the Assembly will impose a monitoring regime appropriate to the GM crop proposed.  The applicant will be required to carry the costs of the monitoring work.

8.  Prior to GM crop planting, every applicant will be required to submit a detailed site-specific Environmental Impact Assessment.  Guidelines will be published by the Assembly.  On receipt of the EIA, the Assembly will decide whether the risks inherent in the proposed GM crop planting are low enough to justify approval.

9.  All farmers and contractors involved in the planting, management and harvesting of a GM crop, and in the transport of GM materials off-farm, will be required to complete, in advance, an approved training course in GM crop management.  Documentation relating to personal accreditation will have to be produced.

10.  Applicants for GM crop plantings will be required to exchange information with neighbours, local authorities, the Assembly and the general public relating to crop characteristics and health and safety assessments, associated herbicides and management matters at least three months prior to planting.  This information will be held on a public register, and the Assembly will be mindful of objections that may be raised relating to scientific deficiencies, safety concerns etc.

11.  The Assembly will ensure that advisory services are available to farmers proposing to plant GM crops, and to other farmers who might be affected economically, and the seed developers will be expected to contribute to the funding of these services.

12.  Before the Assembly gives any consent for a GM crop planting, it will wish to be satisfied that the farmer concerned has adequate liability insurance in place against consequent financial losses by neigfhbours and other farmers, and against consequential losses incurred by the Assembly or local authorities.  The Assembly will wish to see documentary evidence of this liability insurance.

13.  The Assembly will require a written management plan designed to minimise the risk of GM contamination  by farm animals and wild animals including roe deer, birds, bees, foxes and badgers. In particular, they will seek assurances that no farm animals will be allowed onto land used for GM crops within three years of the date of GM seed planting.  

14.  The Assembly will look for on-farm measures to ensure that ramblers and riders will not have access to GM crop fields in the years of planting and harvest and for three years thereafter.  Density and usage of footpaths is important here.  Could also be health / allergy effects for sensitive individuals.  Seeds on muddy boots, horses' hooves, pollen on clothing? (See the recent article in Country Walking magazine: "Walkers in GM scare" - Sept 2003).

15.  Assembly will seek written guarantees that there is complete segregation of GM and non-GM seed stocks at the silos of the seed supplier. This is in recognition of the fact that in the United States it is now impossible to guarantee the purity of maize seed supplied to conventional or organic farmers.

16.  Assembly will not tolerate any secrecy in the planting of GM crops, since this erodes public confidence and creates concern.  Assembly will maintain a public register of all GM crop plantings in Wales, including six-figure grid references for fields used, farmers name and full address, seed owner's full name and address, and monitoring and crop management history etc.  All records submitted in support of planting applications, and all other paperwork, will also be on the public record and will be available for inspection by interested parties.