HC Deb 23 June 1999 vol 333 c412W
Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress of trials for the growing of genetically modified crops. [86788]

Mr. Meacher

The farm-scale evaluations are investigating whether there are any differences in the diversity and abundance of wildlife associated with the management of genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant oil seed rape and maize compared with the management of equivalent conventional crops.

The research contractors, the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, the Institute of Arable Crop Research and the Scottish Crop Research Institute have begun to assess the biodiversity in each field. This year there are now two paired comparisons of winter oil seed rape and four of maize.

The ecological studies are being reviewed by an independent scientific steering committee. The committee comprises scientists drawn from English Nature, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Game Conservancy Trust and academia. The first meeting was on June 14 and the progress of the research was reviewed. The committee considered the work to be making satisfactory progress and that the approach being taken to investigate the effects on wildlife was scientifically sound. Details of progress and steering committee meetings will be made publicly available. A web-site is being set up to provide this information in due course.

Later this year farm-scale evaluations of winter oil seed rape fields will commence. Next year the ecological studies in the farm-scale evaluations will be extended to approximately 20 paired comparisons of each crop.