Speeches recovered from the Conservative party‚Äôs online archive More…

Glyn Davies: Assembly is right to be cautious on GM crops

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales

"In some ways, the issues that we are debating today are simple and all Assembly Members agree on them.

Therefore, we are debating without a huge amount of disagreement between us. However, there are elements that are not straightforward.

The Minister has taken the right approach over the last few years by following the cautious and most restrictive policy possible that is consistent with legal obligations. That is inevitable.

However, it is not a straightforward issue, because we do not have total control over the mechanisms that control this debate.

Mick Bates spoke of the joint ministerial committee. I am not clear how that works or what influence it might have on any decisions that we make.

I am also not clear about the powers of control that the European Union has regarding any decisions that we make.

We cannot ignore the World Trade Organisation. We approve of many of its objectives, but it will not go away, and it will have control over the decisions that we make.

The Government is right to take a restrictive approach to the development of GM crops in Wales; I have no doubt about that.

There has been some concern in Wales, which many of us share, regarding the Prime Minister's almost Messianic approach towards wanting to see GM crops being grown.

That has spread to many members of his Government. However, this is another issue on which the Prime Minister has been defeated by the people. He completely lost control of what he wanted.

We are pleased about that in the Assembly because of our great concern regarding the impact that growing GM crops in Wales will have on our reputation in relation to promoting organic farming and the green, healthy image that the sheep industry, for example, uses to great effect in helping us to export animals.

My main concern over the last few years in relation to this debate has been the position regarding farm-scale trials.

There is an issue about the integrity of our position in this regard. All parties agree that we must take the most restrictive approach and ensure that great care is taken.

It is inevitable, therefore, that farm-scale trials will be held at some stage. Our position is that there should be no such trials in Wales.

I have interpreted this as meaning that all trials must be held in England. That is not an acceptable position. It has not been the Government's position that there should be no trials.

There have been threats, and it worries me that action is not taken as a result of such threats.

The proposition that there should be trials in north Wales and Pembrokeshire has been withdrawn because of threats.

I welcome that withdrawal, because I would like us to follow that commercial path. However, I am worried about the integrity of our position on this.

We have reached the position of having a fairly consistent policy across England and Wales.

That is right, because GMOs cross boundaries. I was interested to read a European Union paper on a decision by the European Parliament to support new measures to improve the production and marketing of honey.

MEPs requested that member states find adequate measures to avoid the contamination of honey with genetically modified organisms.

It states that bees do not stick to EU co-existence rules, so we must tailor the rules to suit the bees.

It also states that bees fly up to 5 km from their hives and beekeepers cannot instruct them in which direction they should fly. Therefore, it is obvious that we need a fairly consistent policy across England and Wales.

We are all in general agreement on this issue. In such a situation, it is easy for truth to go out of the window.

Brian Gibbons raised a point regarding the impact of GM crops on health. We should not assume that they will have a negative impact on health, because it suits what we want to hear.

There must be some scientific backing for that. I hope that this debate, in which our positions are fairly consistent, does not lead us to take a standpoint that is not based on the truth, because this could weaken our argument.

Today's debate is not intended to search for differences between the parties because, generally speaking, I support the Government's realistic approach, and I think that all parties are pleased with the Assembly's position."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech