Select Committee on Agriculture Second Special Report

APPENDIX (continued)



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

November 2000

Third Report

(1999-00 Session) The Segregation of GM Foods

General Update

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.[4] 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 Evaluation trials;

  • 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.

Specific Action

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 FSE trials;

  • 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.

SCIMAC guidelines

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 by mid-2001.

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 crops.

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 procedures.

Organic farming

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.

Field trials

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.

Animal feed

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.

Food testing

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.

Regulatory structures

Recommendation (w): We recommend that the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission be established as a matter of urgency.

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:

Recommendation (b)
Recommendation (f)
Recommendation (h)
Recommendation (o)
Recommendation (p)
Recommendation (q)
Recommendation (s)
Recommendation (t)
Recommendation (v)
Recommendation (x)

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

November 2000

Fifth Report

(1999-2000 Session) The Government's Proposals for Organophosphate Sheep Dips

General Update

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.

Specific Action

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 (

Economic Issues

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 of sale.

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 is used.

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

November 2000

Fourth Report

(Session 1999-2000) Environmental Regulation and Farming

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 permitting.

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 ( the CHPQA website.

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
8 January 2001

4  Note by Committee: The response has yet to be received. Back

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