HC Deb 17 September 2004 vol 424 cc1928-9W
Mr. Drew

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discretion the Government have not to implement a GM seed directive that has been added to the European common catalogue. [188621]

Mr. Bradshaw

The European Common Catalogue, established under Council Directive 2002/53/EC on the Common Catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species, is an amalgam of individual member states' national lists. Varieties that have been added to the Common Catalogue can normally be freely marketed throughout the EC.

The Common Catalogue Directive makes provision for a member state to apply to the European Commission for authorisation to prohibit the use of a GM variety within its own territory, or to lay down appropriate conditions for cultivation of the variety, where either; (a) it has established that cultivation of the variety could pose a risk to plant health of other cultivated varieties or species, or there are valid reasons for considering that it may pose a risk to human health or the environment, or (b) official growing trials, undertaken within that member state's territory, clearly show that the variety does not have a Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU) within that member state.

I assume my hon. Friend's question relates to the recent addition of 17 GM maize varieties to the European Common Catalogue. The maize varieties in question all contain the same GM transformation event, which was given EU wide approval for commercial cultivation in 1998. The approvals process addresses plant and human health and environmental safety issues.

These varieties have not undergone any official UK growing trials, as referred to in (b) above. Therefore at present there is no basis for the Government to seek a prohibition on the marketing of these varieties in the UK. However, they are not suited to UK conditions and it is not anticipated that any UK farmer would attempt to grow these varieties.