Where Does the Buck Stop on Genetically Modified Organisms?

Article excerpt

Byline: Eluned Morgan

Labour Euro-MP Eluned Morgan is organising a conference on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) at Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest, today. This conference is not about the rights and wrongs of GM technology, but an attempt to stop politicians and administrators from passing the buck on who will make the final decisions in this sensitive area. The prestigious list of speakers will focus on how different layers of government interact, and how these relationships are likely to determine the outcome of the GM debate.

PARTY politics and the goings-on in Westminster, Brussels and Cardiff Bay do not get most people's pulses racing. But, in terms of the big issues such as war, the economy, public services, and the environment - people are more interested and better informed than ever before.

In Wales there are few issues that attract more heated debates than Genetically Modified Organisms.

For years farmers have been trying to enhance and improve the production of their land, with fertilisers, better land management and natural cross-breeding. Today we have the technology to go even further, through bio-technology, we can alter the DNA of a plant to make it resistant to weeds, for example. This is not just an issue for farmers though, it affects us all as consumers, and as protectors of the environment. The questions we now have to answer are, if, how, when, and where are we going to use this technology in future?

The US has already decided on these issues and has wholeheartedly embraced the new technology and they are, of course, keen to sell their produce to us in Europe. But for years now the European Union has been refusing to accept US produce which has been genetically changed until legal safeguards to protect consumers and the environment are in place. The US argues that these legal safeguards are unfair barriers to trade and have appealed to the World Trade Organisation to support their view, pointing to the fact that the EU has legal trade duties to honour.

Even within the EU there are a number of different arguments raging about the use of this technology, but of most interest to Wales, is the question of whether or not Wales has a legal right to become GM free, and how this could be achieved while complying with EU law. …