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November 25, 2003 4:35 PM

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to ensure that biotechnology companies are held responsible for potential environmental problems and contamination of non-GM crops, should GM crops be approved to be grown in the UK.

The call comes after the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) today published GM Crops? - Coexistence and Liability.

Andrew George MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary, said:

"Consumers don't want this stuff and I doubt they would be happy, as taxpayers, to bail out the biotech giants if things go wrong.

"Those who hope to make a killing out of GMs should be prepared to stand by the reassurances they keep giving us.

"A monitoring period to take a closer look at coexistence of GM and non-GM crops is a good compromise. But the question remains as to how farmers can be expected to deal with a situation in the future when their land is considered contaminated for many years to come.

"Even farmers who have chosen not to grow GMs may be affected and it is vital the Government protects their interests."

The report, commissioned by DEFRA, proposes a number of options for compensation should non-GM farms or the wider environment be adversely affected, including schemes funded by Government, the biotech industry or farmers. It also suggests a period of close monitoring of

'coexistence' arrangements for GM and non-GM crops, with the proviso that the Government should be able to suspend production of a particular crop should problems arise.

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