HC Deb 08 June 1998 vol 313 cc417-8W
Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research has been carried out into the effects of genetically modified crops planted in England on(a) surrounding areas and (b) those who consume the food and into the risks of cross-fertilisation with non-genetically modified crops planted nearby. [44581]

Angela Eagle

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions funds a research programme to support the risk assessment of proposed releases of genetically modified organisms into the environment. Copies of all our published research reports have been placed in the House of Commons Library. Six completed reports are awaiting publication and seven projects are currently under way. Our assessment of the likely effects of the GMOs always includes the surrounding area. This would include, for example, gene transfer to wild relatives and other crops, effects on Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and the safety of those living in the vicinity of the release. Therefore, all our research projects contribute to our assessment of applications for consent in this respect.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are responsible for safety of GMOs and products derived from GMOs which may be consumed as food and animal feed. MAFF are currently funding 25 research projects which address specific risk assessment issues with respect to use for food. Completed reports are publicly available in the MAFF library.

With respect to cross fertilisation, the risk assessment for applications for consent to release GMOs always considers firstly, the likelihood of gene transfer occurring and secondly, the consequences of gene transfer for human health or the environment. In coming to a view on gene transfer, we also take into account internationally agreed standards for seed purity which have been developed over years of plant breeding experience. These set out required isolation distances to achieve the required level of seed purity for seed certification.

A number of research projects have been carried out by both my Department and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to investigate transgene movement.

  • Gene flow in natural populations of Brassica and Beta (DETR)
  • Genetically Modified crops and their wild relatives (DETR)
  • Investigation of feral oilseed rape populations (DETR—to be published shortly)
  • Local and regional scale movement of an oilseed rape transgene (MAFF);
  • Risk assessment of transgene movement (MAFF).

In addition to this research, my Department has commissioned monitoring of releases of genetically modified oilseed rape being planted for seed production under a marketing consent. This includes field sampling and testing for evidence of gene transfer. A report of the first three years' work will be published in due course.

Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many acres in England have been given over to genetically modified crops; and if he will make a statement as to the acreage of the different crops involved. [44580]

Angela Eagle

Currently, there are 64 experimental trials of genetically modified crops in progress covering a total of approximately 841 acres. Of these, one site is 494 acres, with the remainder consisting of small size plots with an average area of less than 2 acres. In addition to the sites for experimental releases, there is one oilseed rape trial for commercial seed production covering 17.5 acres.

The majority of the experimental trials are for oilseed rape (27), sugar beet (16), and potatoes (14), although GM wheat (3), maize (2), chicory (1) and barley (1) are also grown.

Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what will be done with genetically modified crops sown in Staverton and under the control of his Department once they have been harvested. [44579]

Angela Eagle

The genetically modified maize crop sown at Staverton has animal feed safety clearance from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and it is normal practice for such material to be used as animal fodder after harvest. In addition, some of the crop may be used for analysis of seed production and yield, as it forms part of the National List Trials for maize.