HC Deb 04 November 1993 vol 231 cc313-4W
Mr. David Porter

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what advice the Food Advisory Committee has given on the labelling of foods produced by genetically modified organisms.

Mr. Soames

The Food Advisory Committee has carefully considered possible criteria for the labelling of foods produced using genetically modified organisms—GM foods—and has consulted widely on the matter. It has also considered the report of the Committee on the Ethics of Genetic Modification and Food Use, chaired by the Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne, 'which was published in September. It has now submitted its advice, a copy of which I am putting in the Library of the House.

The Food Advisory Committee takes the view that it would be unrealistic to label every food whose product has involved genetic modification. It has however accepted that there should be provision for choice in relation to those foods which raise real concerns for a significant proportion of the population. It has therefore proposed that a GM food should be labelled if it:

  1. (a) contains a copy gene originally derived from a human;
  2. (b) contains a copy gene originally derived from an animal which is the subject of religious dietary restrictions; or
  3. (c) is a plant or microbial material and containing a copy gene originally derived from an animal.

These rules would not apply if the inserted copy gene had been destroyed by processing and was not, therefore, present in the food.

I am grateful to the committee for its careful and thorough examination of the issues. It is continuing its work, in particular in the form of labelling that might be used. Meanwhile, its advice coincides very closely with that of the Polkinghorne committee and I propose to accept it. The Government will therefore seek provisions on these lines in the proposed novel foods regulation which is currently under discussion in Brussels. Since very few GM foods have yet come on the market and public understanding of the technique is still limited, we shall also seek a provision for a review in a few years' time.