HC Deb 18 June 2002 vol 387 cc212-4W
Mr. Breed

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what(a) timetable and (b) expenditure is planned for the public debate on genetically modified crops. [61175]

Mr. Meacher

[holding answer 13 June 20021: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced on 31 May that the Government considered that there should be a full and informed debate on GM issues, including GM crops. The Government want to start the debate as soon as possible. They are considering the timetable and expenditure for the debate.

Mr. Weir

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans she has to change the pr cedure for approval of GM foods and seeds; [58544]

(2) what plans she has to alter the rights of members of the public who object to the approval of GM foods and seeds to protest against such moves. [58546]

Mr. Meacher

All EU member states are in the process of implementing directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms, which replaces and updates the old directive 90/220/EEC.

The new directive introduces a more robust framework for taking decisions on whether or not to allow the release of GMOs, including GM seeds, in the UK and the EU. It clarifies and increases the level of scientific scrutiny required in assessing safety implications of proposed releases of GMOs. Risk assessments have been extended to cover 'indirect' and long-term' risks to the environment. It also introduces 'post-market monitoring', under which any GMO which is granted consent to be used commercially must be monitored for unanticipated effects on the environment.

The new directive also introduces a new requirement for mandatory public consultation before decisions are taken on applications for consents to release GMOs. We propose that public consultations in England on research trial applications must last for a minimum of 48 days. Consultations on commercial applications (for which the European Commission is responsible) will consist of two separate periods of 30 days.

The Department consulted the public on broad issues raised by the new directive in autumn 2001. We recently began a second public consultation on draft implementing regulations for England, and aim for the regulations to enter into force in October 2002. Copies of the consultation paper are being placed in the parliamentary Libraries.

The Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales and the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland will make separate implementing regulations on issues for which they have devolved powers.

GM foods are approved in Europe in accordance with the provisions of the EC Novel Foods and Novel Foods Ingredients Regulation (258/97). A European Commission proposal for a single GM food and feed regulation is currently under negotiation. The proposal aims to improve the involvement of the public in the authorisation process.

Changes to the Seeds (National Lists of Varieties) Regulations 2001 will be needed in the near future to amend references to EC seeds marketing directives which are currently being codified by the Council of the European Union. In addition, on 21 November 2000 the Government replied to a parliamentary question about changes to the arrangement for requesting a hearing on proposed national list decisions. In this reply, the Government said that they would wish to consider whether the current arrangements are satisfactory for all parties, in the light of the proposed addition of a genetically modified plant variety, Chardon LL, to the national list. The Chardon LL hearing will finish around mid-June this year and the time is right to review how those arrangements have worked. If changes are proposed, all interested parties will be fully consulted.

Back to