HC Deb 12 January 1998 vol 304 cc96-7W
Mr. Tyler

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the licensing of genetically modified crops for commercial planting. [21798]

Mr. Rooker

[holding answer 22 December 1997]: The licensing of genetically modified crops for commercial planting involves two distinct clearance processes. First, the release and marketing of all GMOs is strictly controlled by regulations made under Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which implements Council Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms. No release or marketing of genetically modified crops may take place without the prior consent of the Secretary of State for the Environment. This consent is issued by the Secretary of State if the release is in England, or the Secretary of State for Scotland or Wales as appropriate and my right hon. Friend acts jointly with the Secretary of State in matters in which he has an interest. No consent can be issued without the agreement of the Health and Safety Executive. Applications to market genetically modified crops are scrutinised by all EC Member States and a final decision is made by qualified majority vote under Article 21 of Directive 90/220/EEC. In the UK, the independent expert members of the statutory Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment (ACRE) consider applications to release and market GMOs on the basis of a detailed environmental risk assessment and they advise Ministers on whether or not a consent should be granted and what conditions should apply. Matters of food safety are addressed by the Advisory Committee on Novel Food Processes in accordance with the EC Regulation on Novel Foods and Novel Food Ingredients.

Secondly, no seed of agricultural varieties can be marketed in the UK unless they appear on the UK National List or EC Common Catalogue of varieties. These systems—which usually involve two years or more of growing trials—ensure that new varieties are distinct from others already in the market place and that they have a value for cultivation and use in the UK. However, successful trialling under the National List system is not sufficient on its own to permit the marketing of a genetically modified plant variety.

Forward to