HC Deb 17 October 1994 vol 248 cc140-1W
Mr. Tyler

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the implications of the European Commission White Paper, "Growth, Competitiveness, Employment-The Challenges and Ways Forward into the 21st Century", for research and development of biotechnology relevant to United Kingdom agriculture and horticulture; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jack

In the Commission's view, the implications of its White Paper on "Growth, Competitiveness and Employment" for research are that it should be focused on the most promising areas of development, among which it identifies new unsubsidised outlets for agricultural raw materials, and that there should be greater co-ordination at a European level. The Commission also wishes to develop improved means for using scientific advice in the preparation of regulations.

The potential of biotechnology to have an impact on the competitiveness of United Kingdom agriculture and horticulture has long been recognised by the Ministry and is reflected in its research expenditure plans. MAFF expenditure on biotechnology has grown to some £20 million per year. Its research programmes address both the development of biotechnologies for agricultural and horticultural application and assessment of associated risks, particularly in deliberate release of modified organisms, to ensure that safety regulations are scientifically based. Recent initiatives include a £1.5 million programme on crop molecular genetics and a new £1 million programme on non-food agriculture which the Minister announced in July.

The Ministry will continue to liaise with other Government Departments and the research councils, notably BBSRC, which fund research and development on biotechnology of relevance to agriculture and horticulture, so as to ensure a coherent approach to realising the potential referred to in the White Paper. Likewise, the United Kingdom will participate fully in the European Union's fourth framework programme which includes 552 mecu or £434 million for biotechnology research and development.