HC Deb 05 February 2004 vol 417 c892
8. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)(Lab)

When GM maize will be licensed for commercial growing in the UK. [152871]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett)

Decisions on applications to release particular GM crops for commercial cultivation in the European Union, including the UK, are subject to collective EU agreement under the procedures and timetable set down in EC directive 2001/18 and are made on a case-by-case basis. EU-wide licences for three types of GM maize were granted in 1997–98. However, none can yet be grown commercially in the UK because no variety of those three types of GM maize has been added to either the UK national list of seeds or the EU common catalogue.

Joan Ruddock

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. As she indicates, there is a step—listing on the UK national seeds list. Can she tell the House when the meeting will take place; what discussions she has already had with her counterparts in the devolved Assembly and Parliament; and when indeed she expects pesticide approval to be granted? I understand that those would be the only remaining steps necessary for GM maize to be granted approval by this country—even though, as she says, there is an EU dimension.

Margaret Beckett

I cannot tell my hon. Friend that. All I can say is that she correctly identifies some of the steps that have to be taken. We have had discussions—I anticipate that we will have further discussions—with the devolved bodies about those issues, which, as she says, concern all of us, but I merely remind her that, as I said in my answer, the licensing of those crops was undertaken in 1997–98.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con)

If scientific evidence shows that organic farms become contaminated by GM maize or other GMOs, thereby losing their price premium, who will compensate those organic farmers?

Margaret Beckett

That is the nub of the issues that people are discussing and on which we have some advice already from the independent agricultural advisory committee. I simply tell the hon. Gentleman that, of course, we have to take account of what are the possibilities of what is described as the contamination of conventional food or organic food by GM crops. Of course procedures are in place to try to protect the purity of organic crops against conventional crops, so we are considering the mechanisms that already exist and what should happen if problems arise.

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