[UK] GMOs in Wales

The Government of Wales (The Welsh Assembly Government- WA) has adopted a non-GMO position for Wales and has promoted “GM–Free Wales”,  and has joined the European Association of GM-Free Regions.

However Wales has recognized that it has limited authority for the regulation and control of GMOs since it must follow both EU and UK legislation on GMOs. The WA has initiated studies of the management of GMOs in Wales and has taken two initiatives. 

1. Welsh Assembly Government Proposals on the Transpoosition into UK law of the environmental liability directive - 2004/35/EC

Welsh Assembly Government (WA) is proposing to disapply the State of Knowledge and Permit Defences in respect of GMOs, which means that operators will need to bear the cost of remedial measures.

The Directive imposes obligations on “operators” which, in the case of GMOs, would normally be the farmers responsible for using GMO seeds and growing GM crops. However, Article 16 of the Directive provides that Member States are not prevented from maintaining or adopting more stringent provisions in relation to the prevention or remedying of environmental damage, including the identification of additional parties.

The W A considers that the ELD provides an ideal opportunity for Regions and Member States to ensure those responsible for marketing and growing GMOs in the EU are also responsible for any environmental damage they may cause.

On that basis, the WA is proposing to extend some of the obligations under the Directive to GMO permit and consent holders. This means that the GMO companies could potentially be required to take action to prevent and/or remediate any environmental damage that may be caused by their products.

 The WA, again in conjunction with England, is currently undertaking a 2nd and final consultation on separate draft England and Wales ELD Regulations, which reflect our different stances on a number of issues, including the GMO aspects. The  option to disapply the permit and state of knowledge defences in relation to the farmer and permit holder have therefore been included in the draft Regulations. This option also places a requirement on GMO permit holders to undertake remediation work in line with the polluter pays principle.

2. Coexistence measures and rules

Coexistence proposals have been presented by Defra (UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affaires) for England and a consultation has been conducted (see previous news items). The Welsh Assembly Government (WA) is now considering options for managing coexistence of GM, conventional and organic farming. Technical, legal and administrative studies are being commissioned  by a range of experts and consultants.  Proposals will be drafted which will be put out for comment and consultation by the WA. It is envisaged that the WA will want much more strict rules on segregation and liability than Defra’s proposals for England. It is hoped to finalise the activity in approximately one year.

United Kingdom

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