HC Deb 18 June 1999 vol 333 cc247-50W
Mr. Burgon

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will announce the new membership of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment; and if he will make a statement. [87766]

Mr. Meacher

The new Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) has been appointed today. The committee consists of highly regarded scientists and technical experts (listed). Together they will form a well-balanced committee with the necessary range of expertise and views to provide sound advice on the risks to the environment and human health from the release of genetically modified organisms.

I announced my intention to review the membership and remit of ACRE in a statement to the House of Lords on 21 October 1998. The remit of the committee was subsequently widened—5 November 1998, Official Report, column 638—and the new committee now has an extended range of expertise. This has strengthened ACRE in areas such as ecology, wildlife/biodiversity and farming practice. These extensions to ACRE's competence will allow it to advise in greater depth on the possible impacts of widespread cultivation of GM crops on our countryside and wildlife. In addition, I will also be including for the first time on ACRE a place for the Chair of the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes in an ex-officio capacity. This is in recognition of the importance of close communication between our key advisory committees.

The selection of the new Chair of ACRE is being conducted as a separate appointment and will be announced in the Autumn. Additional members will be appointed in due course and details published in line with guidance from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

I have placed further details of the new Members in the House of Commons Library and the information is also published on the DETR Website (www.environment.detr.gov.uk/acre/wildlife/index.htm).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing members of ACRE for their hard work and sound advice. My fellow Ministers and I are very grateful. New Members of ACRE

Dr. Mark Bailey Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology Expertise: Molecular biology, Microbiology Principle Scientist and Leader of the Molecular Microbial Ecology Group at the NERC1 Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology. Dr. Bailey is a member of the BBSRC2 Microbial Genetics Working Party, and until recently served as a member of the NERC Terrestrial Sciences Peer Review Committee and the Society for General Microbiology's Environmental Microbiology Group. He has been an adviser for HSE3 and the former DOE4 as well as working for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Mr. Edward Cross Farmer, Abbey Farm, Norfolk Expertise: Farming practice Mr. Cross currently jointly manages a substantial farming concern in the East of England. He has a strong commitment to farming and the Environment and is Director of the Farmer's Link Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development Working Group.

Professor Alan Gray (acting ACRE Chairman) Institute of Terrestrial Ecology—Furzebrook Expertise: Farmland ecology Head of ITE Furzebrook and, from next year, of the combined Institute of Terrestrial Ecology and the Institute of Freshwater Ecology's Laboratory in Dorset, Professor Gray has been a highly regarded and productive member of ACRE for five years. He has more than 30 years' research experience in pure and applied ecology and genetics. He is a past Vice-President of the British Ecological Society and holds a Visiting Professorship at Southampton University.

Dr. Susan Hartley Institute of Terrestrial Ecology—Banchory Expertise: Ecology, Entomology Principle Scientific Officer and Head of the Community Ecology Section at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology's Banchory Research Station. Dr. Hartley is a leading plant ecologist specialising in herbivory and is on the Science Advisory Board for Scottish Natural Heritage, the Steering Committee of the Heather Trust and an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Aberdeen.

Dr. Penelope Hirsch Institute of Arable Crop Research, Rothamsted Expertise: Molecular Biology, Microbiology Principal Research Scientist at the Institute of Arable Crop Research, Rothamsted. Dr. Hirsch is recognised as an outstanding molecular biologist whose current area of research concentrates on soil microbial ecology. Dr. Hirsch is a member of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Advisory Committee on Genetic Manipulation.

Dr. Mike Mayo Scottish Crop Research Institute, Dundee Expertise: Plant virology Senior Principal Scientist at the Scottish Crop Research Institute. Dr. Mayo is a leading research scientist working on the molecular biology of plant viruses. He is a member of the Executive Committee of International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.

Professor Christopher Pollock Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Aberystwyth Expertise: Plant breeding, Molecular biology Research Director at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research. He is a member of the BBSRC's Strategy board and Chair of the Plants and Microbial Sciences Committee. In 1996 he was a member of DOE's Climate Change Impacts Review Group. Professor Pollock is currently Chair of the steering committee for the programme of farm-scale evaluations.

Mr. Jules Pretty University of Essex Expertise: Sustainable development Director of the Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex. Mr. Pretty is an acknowledged expert on sustainable agricultural systems and farming practice. He is a Consultant for DfID5 projects and the US Agency for International Development. He is also a Member of the advisory committee for DfID on Biodiversity Policy and Practice Project.

Dr. Mark Rees University of London Expertise: Weed ecology, Plant biology Lecturer at Imperial College, University of London. Dr. Rees has an excellent international reputation for his research on plant population dynamics and its application to the biological control of weeds. Dr. Rees was awarded the Founders Prize of the British Ecological Society in 1997.

Dr. Christopher Spray Northumbrian Water Expertise: Biodiversity and Conservation Environmental Manager at Northumbrian Water responsible for conservation and Biodiversity issues. Dr. Spray has produced Northumbrian Water's environmental strategy and Biodiversity Action Plan. He is a member of DETR's Conservation, Access and Recreation in the Water Industry committee, a member of the England Local Issues Subgroup (of the England Biodiversity Group) and Chairman of Water UK's Network on Conservation, Access and Recreation in the Water Industry.

Professor Ingrid Williams Institute of Arable Crop Research-Rothamsted Expertise: Entomology Principle Research Scientist at the Institute of Arable Crops Research at Rothamsted. Professor Williams is currently the entomology expert on ACRE, Chair of the International Commission for Plant-Bee Relationships and Council member of the International Bee Research Association. Chair of the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ex-officio seat)

Professor Janet Bainbridge University of Teesside Professor Bainbridge is the Director of Science and Technology at the University of Teesside. She is Chair of Advisory Committee on Novel Food and Processes (ACNFP) and their sub group on Long Term Monitoring. Professor Bainbridge has many years experience of committee work and is a leading authority on GM Food Safety.

1 National Environmental Research Council

2 Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

3 Health and Safety Executive

4 Department of the Environment

5 Department for International Development