HC Deb 08 January 2004 vol 416 cc393-4
7. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)

If she will make a statement on the withdrawal of six GM seed applications for UK national seed listing by Bayer CropScience. [146375]

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley)

Bayer CropScience withdrew the UK national list applications for five oilseed rape varieties in November 2003. This was published in the Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette in December 2003. In 2003, a total of 56 UK national list applications for oilseed rape varieties were withdrawn by the applicants. Withdrawal of national list applications is voluntary and entirely a matter for the applicants concerned.

Joan Ruddock

May I suggest to my hon. Friend that the likely reason for the withdrawal is that the industry's claims for GM crops clearly cannot be sustained? Has he seen the latest American research, which has been publicised by the Soil Association and shows that, after initial reductions in the early years, there was a massive increase in the chemicals applied to the herbicide-resistant GM crops compared with the non-GM crops? In the case of maize, this amounted to a 29 per cent. increase. Maize is, of course, the only GM crop that achieved a slightly favourable result in the Government's farm-scale evaluations.

Mr. Morley

I have seen reports on the research to which my hon. Friend is referring. It is important that we analyse those reports in some detail, and I am sure that they will be scrutinised by our expert scientific committees in relation to our current evaluations and discussions on GM applications in this country. It is certainly the case that in the field-scale evaluations, the detrimental impact was linked to the chemical application regimes, not with the genetic modifications themselves, although they are linked to the chemical regimes. That is an important consideration. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment is currently making a detailed evaluation of the field-scale evaluations, and I am sure that it will take this research into account as well. We will receive its report in the near future.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con)

Does the Minister agree that we must keep an open mind on GM foods, that our policy must be based on sound science, and that we would be doing a disservice to consumers, farmers and the environment if we were to base public policy on dodgy extrapolations from one or two examples or from one or two dodgy looking research papers?

Mr. Morley

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; we must base our decisions on sound science. Any research must be properly evaluated in detail, whether the conclusions are positive or negative, and we would expect to do that. No country has put in place such detailed examination and evaluation of GM as this country under this Government. That is entirely right and proper, because we must be guided by the facts and by sound scientific advice.