HC Deb 17 June 1999 vol 333 cc199-200W
Mr. Yeo

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if another member state of the European Union were to license the commercial planting of genetically modified crops by a company there would be any bar to that company proceeding with commercial planting in the United Kingdom. [86135]

Mr. Meacher

[holding answer 8 June 1999]Commercial growing of a genetically modified crop can be approved only at community level, not by an individual member state. The relevant legislation is Council Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Under Part C of this Directive, applications for consent for placing on the market products containing or consisting of GMOs must be considered and cleared by all member states at the Community level. Once a GM crop has Part C (marketing) consent under the Directive, it applies across all member states, including, of course, the United Kingdom.

However, before any new variety of a crop, including GM varieties, can be grown commercially, it also has to have passed the necessary tests and be placed either on the UK national list of seeds or the EU common catalogue. If the crop is herbicide tolerant, the use of that herbicide on the GM crop may also require specific approval under the pesticides legislation.

Specific conditions may be attached to consents issued under the Directive, for example to limit the geographical area in which the GM crop is grown or used. But in absence of any such restrictions and subject to the other necessary approvals for any crop being in place, there is no bar to commercial planting in the UK.

A safeguard clause, Article 16, in the Directive allows a member state provisionally to restrict or prohibit the use and/or sale on its territory of a GMO that has been given consent if there are justifiable reasons to consider that the product constitutes a risk to human health or the environment. In such circumstances a decision on whether or not to uphold the consent is subsequently taken at Community level after consideration of the new evidence.

Joan Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what advice he has obtained about the use of antibiotic marker genes in genetically modified plants which provide raw materials for the production of cosmetics and perfumes. [86316]

Mr. Meacher

All releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are governed by the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations 1992 as amended. Under the Regulations, the possible effects of using antibiotic marker genes in a GM plant on human health or the environment are considered as part of the approvals process. However, once any GM plant material had been processed for use in products such as cosmetics and perfumes, it would not come under the scope of these Regulations because it is no longer a living organism, i.e. not capable of replication or of transferring genetic material. The products would, however, be assessed under the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 1996 to ensure that they are not harmful to human health.

The Government welcome the European Commission's plan to develop harmonised guidelines for GMO risk assessments for cosmetic products and will push in Europe for their adoption.