HC Deb 21 April 1999 vol 329 cc895-6
8. Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

When he and fellow Ministers expect to take action following the report by officials on biotechnology and genetic modification. [80299]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Dr. Jack Cunningham)

Ministers will consider the report, to be submitted by officials, in parallel with the conclusions of the Government's public consultation on developments in the biosciences. I expect to make a formal announcement of the outcome of the review shortly.

Sir Sydney Chapman

In the past 200 years, the world's population has increased from 1 billion to 6 billion; three quarters of the world's population is at present undernourished, or worse; and the most conservative estimates show that the world's population will increase by another 4 billion over the next 50 years. Given all that, does the Minister accept that, providing scientists can show beyond doubt that genetically modified crops and foods are safe, the use of such crops and foods will probably be the only way to ensure that the future population of the world will not starve?

Dr. Cunningham

I am satisfied that, with proper control and tests and trials before licences are granted, the production of genetically modified food can make a significant contribution to the problem of feeding an ever-growing world population. I would not say that it represents the only solution, but it can certainly be a major factor for good in that regard.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As a former beekeeper, and pursuant to Question 22, may I ask what advice my right hon. Friend has been given on the distance that bees can fly—their range? What effects will that range have on the cross-pollination of genetically modified crops?

Dr. Cunningham

I have always known that my hon. Friend packed a considerable sting, but we cannot declare a no-fly zone for bees. Therefore, we are devoting considerable research into the matter of cross-pollination so that we can be sure that difficulties to do with hybridisation will not arise. The experience shows that it is not really a significant problem—in north America that experience is wide ranging.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

Will the right hon. Gentleman place in the Library a list of those laboratories that the Government recognise as able to validate the genetically modified or non-genetically modified status of processed foods?

Dr. Cunningham

I am not sure whether we have a list of all the laboratories that would be involved, but I shall certainly provide the hon. Lady and the House with all the information that is available to me.