AGRICULTURE SELECT COMMITTEE: IMPLEMENTATION
OF THE COMMITTEE'S RECOMMENDATIONS
Recommendation 30: We recommend that the Government
review the regulatory burden across all aspects of the dairy sector
with the aim of reducing it.
21. Eight recommendations were made by the Red Tape
Working Group on Intervention in relation to the dairy sector
and all were accepted. Four of these now provide easier access
to intervention and reduce the frequency of some testing. The
two recommendations on testing of bags and sampling of skimmed
milk powder could realise average savings to each offerer of around
£1,200 and £10,000 per year respectively. Work continues
on the remaining two. On in-situ storage we have completed a review
of current arrangements and are awaiting definite expressions
of interest from stores in GB. On butter price reporting a consultation
paper is being prepared. An action plan recording progress in
implementation was published in July to contribute to the first
meeting of the Agricultural Forum. A further updated action plan
was made available to contribute to the second meeting of the
Forum held on 23 November.
The Government has nothing to add to its response
in respect of the following:
Recommendations; 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 17, 18, 21, 23,
28, 29, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and paragraph 84.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(1999-00 Session) The Segregation of GM Foods
1. Since the Government's response to this Report
the main development in relation to GM crops has been the incident
involving the accidental sowing of small amounts of imported GM
rapeseed in crops of conventional oilseed rape. This prompted
a specific report by the Committee (Eighth Report: 1999-00 Session)
to which the Government response has recently been submitted.
The key points to note in relation to this issue are that:
- the Government has published the findings of
a scientific review and public consultation on GM crop separation
distances, and is now considering whether any changes would be
appropriate to the distances currently applied for the Farm Scale
- the Government has instructed the GM Inspectorate
at the Central Science Laboratory to audit seed importers to ensure
they are applying appropriate procedures to guard against the
possible presence of unauthorised GMOs;
- the European Commission has published a set of
interim measures dealing with GM impurities in conventional seed,
pending agreement on legislative proposals which the Commission
will submit in due course;
- the Government has asked the new Agriculture
and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) to consider the
question of public acceptance of levels of GM impurity.
2. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) was established
in April this year as an independent Government department protecting
consumer interests in relation to food. It is committed to three
principles: putting the consumer first, being open and accessible,
and acting as an independent voice. The FSA, alongside the AEBC,
will enable the Government to promote open dialogue on GM issues
that fall outside the remit of the Human Genetics Commission.
The FSA Board meets monthly in open forum meetings and publishes
its papers on a website.
3. The FSA Board has already considered GM food and
food labelling, and its recommendations will ensure that consumers
can continue to make an informed choice regarding the food they
eat. The FSA's main objective in relation to GM labelling is to
prevent confusion and allows those who wish to avoid GM food to
do so, even though no additional health risk is involved. This
will require an option for distinguishing food that is totally
'GM free' from products that contain a low level of GM material.
Labelling requirements must also be enforceable and reflect an
appropriate balance between benefits and costs to consumers.
The debate on GM technology
Recommendation (a): We believe that
it is vital that confusion over GMs is now replaced by rational
debate and education in order that the market can serve those
who actively choose to grow or consume genetically modified foods
as well as those who choose not to do so.
4. As a follow-up to the OECD conference in Edinburgh
earlier this year the Government has promoted the idea of an international
panel on GM issues, most recently at the G8 summit in Okinawa.
Although it was not possible to reach agreement at Okinawa the
Government is continuing to explore further along these lines
with its international partners. The Government's
aim is for an independent, science-based, open and
inclusive consideration of GM crop and food issues, recognising
the need for a well-informed and rational public debate.
5. As well as the FSA, the AEBC has been established
this year and should also help to improve general awareness and
understanding of GM issues. It is an independent body with members
reflecting the public interest that will advise the Government
on the broader social and ethical implications of biotechnology
as it relates to farming and the countryside.
GM-free and non-GM labelling
Recommendation (c): We accept the distinction
which has to be made between 'non GM' and 'GM free'. There is
not yet a satisfactory definition of GM-free but once it has been
agreed, we expect it to be enforced.
Recommendation (d): We recommend that the Government
work within the EU to establish early definitions of 'non-GM'
and 'GM-free' labels to apply throughout the EU which in the case
of the latter should be as close to 100% as practicable.
6. The FSA is pressing the European Commission to
bring forward legislative proposals on the labelling of GM-free
foods, as the Commission pledged to do in its White Paper on Food
Safety. It is hoped that proposals will be issued before the end
of this year.
Separation Distances for GM crops
Recommendation (e): We recommend that the Government
ensure that the separation distances set out in the SCIMAC guidelines
be reviewed if there is clear evidence of cross-pollination taking
place within the existing guidelines and any necessary revisions
implemented in the next round of field trials. If such a review
becomes necessary, we would expect all interested parties to be
represented on it.
7. As noted in the General Update, the Government
initiated a review of GM crop separation distances earlier this
year in the wake of the Advanta rapeseed incident. The review
includes the following two elements, the findings of which have
already been published and sent to the Committee:
- a report by the National Institute of Agricultural
Botany on the relationship between separation distances and crop
purity. This reviews the existing scientific data in this area
and sets out the distances required to achieve maximum cross-pollination
limits of 0.1%, 0.5% and 1.0% for the crops being grown in the
- a public consultation involving all relevant
stakeholders (e.g. conventional and organic farmers, beekeepers,
consumers, industry and scientific bodies).
8. Ministers are considering in the light of these
findings what changes might be appropriate to the separation distances
applied in respect of the farm scale evaluation trials.
Recommendation (g): We believe that the self-regulatory
arrangements need to be clearly endorsed by Government so that
they have equivalent status to statutorily based guidelines. However,
we also consider that such statutory guidelines should only be
imposed if they are part of a uniform arrangement across the EU.
9. The Government has prompted the European Commission
to consider the need for guidelines on GM cropping, in particular
to facilitate the co-existence of GM, conventional and organic
production. The Commission has asked the Institute for Technological
Change based in Seville to study this issue and provide a report
Notification of GM crops
Recommendation (i): We believe that notification
should be compulsory, that the notification zone should at least
match the separation distances and that SCIMAC must work harder
to ensure that the views of neighbouring farmers and other directly
interested parties are taken into account in the planting of GM
10. The public consultation on separation distances
also sought views on notification procedures for GM crops. The
Government is discussing with SCIMAC possible changes to the existing
Recommendation (k): We welcome the ongoing discussions
between SCIMAC and representatives of organic farming as the right
approach to the difficulties GMOs present to the organic sector.
It would be as wrong for an organic farmer to prevent his neighbour
growing GM crops as for a farmer planting GM maize to put his
neighbour's organic crop, and therefore livelihood, in jeopardy.
A modus vivendi must be found and written into the guidelines
to ensure that the special circumstances of organic farmers are
recognised. The two types of farming are equally legal and neither
should be subject to discrimination.
11. The Government has continued to promote a dialogue
between SCIMAC and the organic sector to improve mutual understanding
and to address areas of practical concern. The Government has
also consulted the organic sector as part of its initiatives on
separation distances and notification procedures. Moreover, as
noted previously, the Government is seeking to ensure that proper
consideration is given at EU-level to the interface between GM
and organic production.
Recommendation (l): We recommend that the Government
resolve the issue of legal liability on an EU-wide basis as a
matter of urgency and aim to have the necessary measures in place
before any commercial plantings of GM crops are permitted.
12. The Government is considering this issue in the
context of the European Commission's plan to bring forward legislative
proposals on environmental liability, including in respect of
GMOs, before the end of 2001. The Government's agreement with
the industry means that GM crops will not be grown commercially
in the UK until 2003 at the earliest.
Recommendation (m): We recommend that the Government
maintain the programme of GM crop field trials as planned and
that all steps are taken to ensure that experiments are not scaled
down below the size calculated to produce reliable and scientifically
sound results and that they are protected from interference.
13. The farm scale evaluation (FSE) programme is
continuing as planned with the number of sites involved kept under
review by the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC). For the FSE
plantings next spring the SSC has recommended that there should
be 32 crops each of oilseed rape, forage maize and beet. The policy
of disclosing precise grid references for FSE sites is being maintained,
allied to which the Government is keeping under close review the
issue of site security and the protection of farmers.
Recommendation (n): We recommend that the Government
press the European Commission for an early consideration of a
workable and transparent labelling regime for meat and dairy products
derived from animals fed on GM materials and for labelling of
the feed itself.
14. The European Commission has indicated that it
will bring forward a proposal for a regulation on GM animal feed
this year. It is expected that the proposal will contain a requirement
to label feed containing GM material.
Labelling and thresholds
Recommendation (r): We are attracted to the proposal
for a consolidating regulation on labelling of GM foods and recommend
that the Government consider how best to pursue this approach
with the European Commission.
15. The European Commission has indicated that the
current rules on GM labelling will be harmonised into one regulation,
and this is expected in 2001.
Recommendation (u): We agree with the Government
that it is not necessary to prescribe how testing is carried out,
as long as it reaches the required standard, but we believe that
some assistance may be required to ensure that local authorities
are properly equipped to perform their consumer protection role
for GM products.
16. The proficiency scheme on GM testing which the
Government has sponsored will finish this year and the results
will be made publicly available.
Recommendation (w): We recommend that the Agriculture
and Environment Biotechnology Commission be established as a matter
Recommendation (y): We expect the Government to
ensure that principles of openness and transparency apply in the
work of the AEBC and the Food Standards Agency.
17. The AEBC was launched on 5 June 2000. It is following
the principles of openness and transparency set out in the Report
of the Review of the Advisory and Regulatory Framework for Biotechnology.
It is consulting widely on its proposed Work Plan and has invited
stakeholders and the public to discuss their views at an open
meeting in December 2000. It is also developing its lines of communication
with relevant regulatory and advisory bodies including the FSA.
The Government has nothing to add to its response
in respect of the following:
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(1999-2000 Session) The Government's Proposals
for Organophosphate Sheep Dips
1. In December 1999 the Government announced its
four-point plan on OPs. The introduction of new containers for
OP sheep dips, designed to minimise the risk of exposure to the
operator, formed a major plank of this plan. Marketing authorisations
for OP sheep dips were temporarily suspended in December 1999
pending the introduction of such new containers.
Improvements to Container Design
2. The Government announced on 15 August (Annex A
[not printed]) that, following advice from the Veterinary Products
Committee (VPC) which was published by the Government on 25 August
2000 (Annex B [not printed]), Marketing Authorisation holders
had been invited to submit variation applications to provide for
the addition, in the short term, of a vented tap to existing containers
and some changes to product labels. Two of these applications
were granted and the temporary suspensions of the marketing authorisations
lifted on 12 October. A third application is still under consideration.
Two products are expected to return to the market in their improved
containers during the week ending 3 November. These authorisations
will automatically expire on 31 August 2001 unless the companies
have completed their longer term plans to introduce entirely closed
systems for transferring OP dip concentrate into the dip bath
and have successfully applied for further variations to their
marketing authorisations to introduce these closed systems.
Research and Development
3. A new three-year £1.75m research programme
has been put in place from July 2000 which includes further studies
to investigate the feasibility of vaccination and other alternative
approaches to sheep scab control.
Consultation before the recall
Recommendation (a) : We
agree with Professor Aitken that there is a need for dialogue
between the Environment Agency and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate
about the review process, and believe the discussions should also
examine how the Environment Agency can be directly involved in
VPC processes rather than through the officials of the DETR.
4. The Government agreed with this recommendation.
Arrangements have now been put in place for all relevant VPC papers
to be copied directly to the Environment Agency for comment prior
to their submission to the Veterinary Products Committee. An open
invitation has also been extended to staff from the Environment
Agency to attend VPC meetings.
Information for Farmers
Recommendation (d) : We
recommend that before such important announcements in the future
MAFF prepare an information sheet (embargoed if necessary) that
summarises the announcement and its implications for regional
service centres, helpline staff and advisers within farmers' representative
organisations. This information should also be made available
to farmers and other organisations via the Internet.
5. The Government accepted that information for farmers
at the time of the December 1999 announcement could have been
better handled. At the time of the Government's announcement of
15 August and the publication of the VPC's advice on 25 August
(see paragraph 2), full briefing was provided to Regional Service
Centres. News Releases, which are published on the Internet, refer
to VPC reports which are available on the VPC's website (www.vpc.gov.uk).
Recommendation (f) : We
recommend that the Government assess the level of scab and evaluate
the economic impact upon farmers of alternative approaches to
eradicating scab from the UK. We further recommend that the likely
economic cost to farmers of the cost of withdrawal of OP sheep
dips be assessed and published.
6. Surveillance for sheep scab will be re-appraised
as part of the implementation programme following development
of a coherent strategy for veterinary surveillance.
7. A new three-year research programme totalling
£1.75m has been put in place from July 2000. This programme
includes further studies to investigate the feasibility of vaccination
and other alternative approaches to sheep scab control.
Re-introduction of OP Sheep Dips
Recommendation (g) : We
recommend that the VPC and MAFF prepare and publish a timetable
for re-introduction of OP dips, in both interim and permanent
container designs, subject to achievement of necessary safety
measures, in order to reduce uncertainty in the industry.
8. On 15 August 2000 the Government confirmed that
the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) had advised that the outline
plans submitted by marketing authorisation holders for improvements
to their containers were likely to meet the objective of reducing
operator exposure to OP sheep dips in their concentrated form.
The Ministers jointly forming the Licensing Authority accepted
that advice and Marketing Authorisation holders were invited to
submit variation applications (see Annex A [not printed]).
9. At its meeting on 21 September the VPC considered
three applications to vary the terms of marketing authorisations
for OP sheep dips. These provided for the addition, in the short
term, of a vented tap to existing containers and some changes
to product labels. As well as revisions necessary to cover the
use of the tap, these label changes were intended to bring the
product labels into line with "model" labels agreed
by the VPC last year (see paragraph 17 below).
10. The VPC recommended that, subject to resolution
with the VMD of some minor outstanding issues, these applications
should be granted and the temporary suspensions lifted. Following
the satisfactory resolution of all outstanding issues, letters
were issued to two of the three MA holders involved on 12 October.
These companies are expected to re-launch their OP sheep dip products
in their improved containers during the week ending 3 November.
11. The authorisations to market these products will
automatically expire on 31 August 2001 unless the companies have
completed their longer term plans to introduce entirely closed
systems for transferring OP dip concentrate into the dip bath.
Protection of Dippers
Recommendation (h) : We
find some merit in idea of making laminated sheets part of the
required labelling of each dip container and recommend that the
Government consider making it a legal requirement that laminated
sheets be given out to purchasers of OP sheep dip at the point
12. The Government agreed with this recommendation.
New legislation, the Medicines (Exemptions for Merchants in Veterinary
Drugs) Order 2000, was introduced on 9 October 2000 which requires
that OP sheep dips can be sold by registered agricultural merchants
only if two pairs of recommended protective gloves and a laminated
sheet containing safety instructions are also supplied (see Annex
C [not printed]).
13. Baroness Hayman, the Minister of State (Lords)
at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, also wrote
on 20 October 2000 to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
(RCVS), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB)
and the British Veterinary Association (BVA). In her letters she
said that, although the requirements of this new legislation would
not legally bind their members, it would be desirable if they
also supplied these items to those people purchasing OP sheep
dips directly from them (see Annex D [not printed]).
Recommendation (i) : We
recommend that the new labels for OP sheep dip concentrate be
agreed as soon as possible, giving due regard in their wording
and positioning to the practical circumstances in which the product
14. The Government agreed with this recommendation.
Following a review in 1999 by the Veterinary Products Committee
(VPC) of sheep dip labels, it was agreed that new labels should
be introduced for all sheep dips, based on "model labels"
agreed at their meeting in December 1999. These were designed
to promote best practice by simplifying the instructions and ensuring
that important safety warnings were given proper prominence. The
necessary label changes for OP sheep dips were agreed in October
2000 as part of granting variations to the marketing authorisations
for the short-term changes to container design. OP sheep dips
will therefore carry new labels based on the "model labels"
agreed by the VPC when they return to the market.
Recommendation (j) : We recommend that the Government
reconsider the scope of the Certificate of Competence for the
use of sheep dips.
15. The Government agreed with this recommendation.
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) sought the views of
interested organisations on 17 August 2000, within the letter
consulting on proposed amendments to the Medicines (Exemption
for Merchants in Veterinary Drugs) Order 1998 (see Annex E [not
printed]). Eleven organisations commented specifically on this
issue and the VMD is currently considering these replies, which
have also been made available to the Health and Safety Executive
in light of their enforcement responsibilities in this area.
The Government has nothing to add in respect of
its response to the following:
Recommendations (b), (c) and (e).
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Session 1999-2000) Environmental Regulation
Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control
The main concerns of the Committee centred on the
timetable for the introduction of permitting under the new Integrated
Pollution Prevention and Control regime, and the cost of this
The Government announced on 30 March that existing
pig and poultry installations would not be required to have an
IPPC permit until 2007, and this is reflected in the Pollution
Prevention and Control Regulations (SI 2000/1973) that took effect
from 1 August.
The Environment Agency in consultation with the farming
industry has drawn up proposals for General Binding Rules for
the regulation of farming installations. This provides for simplified
permitting and enables the Agency to reduce the application fee
for a permit issued on this basis to under £3000. The full
interim charging scheme will be published shortly; the Agency
expects to consult on proposals for a longer term charging scheme
in during the course of 2001.
Together these measures reduce the burden of IPPC
on farmers to the minimum compatible with effective regulation.
There is a continuing dialogue between Government, the farming
industry and the Environment Agency on the measures and implementation.
The Committee's concern for an assessment of the cost and benefits
of the impact of IPPC is best seen in the context of the BREF
(Best Available Techniques Reference) Note which is likely to
be available in the latter part of 2001.
The Committee also expressed concern that the number
of farms should be established more precisely. Since the date
for the introduction of permitting for most installation has been
put back several years, there is less urgency in this. For the
purposes of the European Pollutant Emissions Register the Government
will be compiling figures for the number of IPPC sites in 2003
and 2006; the former may be based on estimates, while the latter
should be more accurate.
Climate Change Levy
The Climate Change Levy will come into effect as
planned on 1 April 2001. Progress is being made on the Levy negotiated
agreements - including those which pertain to agriculture sectors.
We expect the agreements to be completed within deadline - allowing
rebates to be in place when the Levy comes into operation.
Applications are being made for state aids clearance.
Officials are continuing discussions with the European Commission
on this and other aspects of the Climate Change Levy and expect
to have a ruling in the early part of 2001.
Combined Heat and Power
The Government's full detailed response following
the consultation was issued on 4 July. The CHPQA programme is
now operational and provides a robust, practical framework for
assessing and certifying Good Quality CHP. The CHPQA Standard
and Guidance Notes including details for registering with the
programme are now available at (www.chpqa.com) the CHPQA website.
Department of the Environment, Transport and the
8 January 2001
4 Note by Committee: The response has yet to be received. Back