Charting a course that could put the Liberal Democrats in conflict with Labour, Lib Dem members attending the party’s conference in Harrogate also voted in favour of a commitment by the party to consider opposing all GM crops if they are shown to make organic farming impossible.

The debate that preceded the adoption of Keeping the Balance, the party’s GM policy, included an impassioned speech from newly-elected party leader Charles Kennedy. Kennedy told Lib Dem members that “the consumer and citizen is king” and that “we’ve got to be bolder in our commitment to the environment”. Speaking at the close of the party conference, Kennedy referred to the gap between the Government’s position on GM crops and food and consumer views. “The vast majority of the country is unpersuaded. But the government isn’t listening,” he said.

Such comments come just a few days after the Government conceded that it broke the law in allowing AgrEvo to plant winter GM rapeseed without a submitting a new crop trial application. The court case, brought by Friends of the Earth, also highlighted the substantially increased acreage of the Government’s Farmscale GM crop trials for 1999/2000.

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