HC Deb 04 June 1998 vol 313 cc495-6
10. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

What steps he is taking to ensure that the revised common agricultural policy takes account of the opportunities for novel crops. [42731]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Elliot Morley)

In recent Brussels discussions, the Government have argued that the common agricultural policy should take full account of the opportunities for novel crops, which we strongly support.

Mr. Boswell

Will the Minister bear in mind the importance of ensuring that novel crops for foods and animal feeds are treated equally by CAP regimes and are not discriminated against if they have agronomic or technical advantages? Will he also bear in mind the importance of new developments in biomass production and non-food crops, which can benefit farmers with difficult land and which may increase farm incomes and help to reduce global warming?

Mr. Morley

I accept those points. The first biomass power station will open shortly and will encourage development of the crop involved. How the CAP treats crops is a serious point as, under the existing regime, there is a penalty for farmers who want to develop novel crops. We want that to be rectified.

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to this week's report from the first citizens panel on food and biotechnology, which was horrified that new crops had been introduced without the Government doing anything to stop them? When considering CAP reform, will my hon. Friend put sustainability at the heart of agriculture policy, particularly for genetically modified food?

Mr. Morley

Yes. Two issues are involved first, novel crops, such as biomass, which are generally welcomed, and, secondly, genetically modified organisms. It is important that any crop of that sort is exposed to the proper procedures. We are ensuring that that happens and that there is proper scientific evaluation of any such crop.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Does the Minister agree that the Central Science Laboratory has a role to play in developing novel crops? Will he make a statement on the laboratory's future and, in particular, where it will be located?

Mr. Morley

That announcement has been made by my right hon. Friend the Minister.

Forward to