§ Mr. Tyler
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what trials of genetically modified crops have been authorised for sites in Cornwall; on whose advice they were permitted and when; what results were obtained; and what conclusions his Department has reached on those results. 
§ Mr. Meacher
[holding answer 5 March 2001]: The public register of releases, held by my Department, shows that there have been no releases of genetically modified (GM) crops in Cornwall for the purposes of research since the register was established in 1993.
Before this, releases of GM crops were controlled by the Genetic Manipulation Regulations 1989. Persons wishing to release any genetically modified organism (GMO) were required to notify their intent to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Officials from HSE and the then Department of Environment (DoE) scrutinised these notifications for compliance with the regulations and to ensure that the release would not pose a risk to the environment. Until June 1990 they were advised by the Planned Release Sub-committee of the Health and Safety Commission's Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification and the DOE's Interim Advisory Committee on Introductions. In June 1990 these two committees were replaced by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.
Pre-February 1993 records show that in 1990 researchers from the Imperial College School of Applied Biology were authorised to study the invasiveness and persistence of GM crops in 12 natural habitats. There were four sites in Cornwall at Great Grogley Dawns, Davidstone Woods, Penkestle Downs and Great Wood Tregays. Each was sown with four different GM crops (oilseed rape, maize, potato and sugar beet) and equivalent conventional crops. The outcome of this work was reported in the science journal Nature in 1993 (Ecology of transgenic oilseed rape in natural habitats, 363, 620–623). It showed that the GM seeds tested did not perform better or persist for longer than conventional varieties over a three-year period.
More recently, the researchers reported that, after ten years of monitoring the sites, in no case were the GM plants found to be more invasive or more persistent 629W than their conventional counterparts (Nature, 2001, "Transgenic crops in natural habitats", 409, 682–683). None of the crops GM or conventional varieties increased in number at any of the sites. All populations (both GM and non-GM) of maize, sugar beet and oilseed rape were extinct at all sites within four years of sowing. Potatoes survived at one site for 10 years but these were all conventional (non-GM).
The regulators and ACRE have used the results of these studies to inform the consideration of applications to release GM plants containing the same or similar GM traits. The studies give information about the risks to the environment that they would become weeds of agriculture or invasive of natural habitats or that the introduced genes would be transferred by pollen to wild relatives whose hybrid offspring would then become more weedy or invasive.
§ Mr. Meacher
[holding answer 5 March 2001]: Researchers from Imperial College London carried out trials of genetically modified (GM) and conventional crop plants in 1990 at four sites in Cornwall that had been selected in 1989. The researchers have been monitoring the sites since 1990 and have recently reported the fate of the seeds and resultant plants in the journal Nature (Nature, 2001, Transgenic crops in natural habitats, 409, 682–683). They report that the populations of both GM and non-GM plants declined after the first year. For maize all lines were extinct at the start of the second year. All beet were extinct by the end of the third year and all oil seed rape were extinct within four years. No trace of GM plants was found when the sites were checked after 10 years in 2000.