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Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the ability of farmers to afford adequate veterinary care for their animals. 
Mr. Morley: Farmers have a duty to maintain the welfare of animals for which they are responsible, including the provision of veterinary care. This is a normal business expense of livestock farmers and as such, estimates of total income from farming are net of this expenditure.
Mr. Morley [holding answer 26 October 2001]: Traceability of sheep in England and Wales is at present secured by tagging them with the number of the holding from which they made their first post-foot and mouth disease move, combined with very strict movement controls. We are currently considering how continued traceability could be secured when freer movements are permitted. We have already held some discussions with industry organisations on this subject and plan to hold others shortly.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consultation she has had with the livestock auction industry in relation to the traceability of sheep; and if she will make a statement. 
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Mr. Morley [holding answer 26 October 2001]: Representatives of the livestock auction industry have been present at recent meetings to discuss traceability of sheep in England and Wales in the context of autumn and spring movements. We recognise the interests of the livestock auction industry in this subject; they will be invited to participate in further discussions on traceability.
Alun Michael: Last year's Rural White Paper (Cm 4909), section 12.5, sets out work which is now in hand to strengthen the voluntary and community sector in rural areas. The impact of foot and mouth disease has revealed the pressing need to sustain the health of rural voluntary and community activity, and the creation of the new Department, with for the first time an explicit focus on rural affairs, has enabled us to enhance our capacity to work with the sector. I am holding a series of meetings with representatives of rural voluntary and community bodies and will consider what further measures may be needed.
Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what post-trial procedures are in place to (a) ensure destruction of the root system, (b) ensure the soil is free from GMOs, and (c) monitor levels of GMOs in other crops in relation to land used in farm scale evaluations of GM crops. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 July 2001]: The post-trial procedures for each of the three types of crops grown as part of the farm scale evaluations are set out as follows. In addition the crops are grown in accordance with the industry body, SCIMAC, code of practice and guidelines on the growing of GM herbicide tolerant crops. These specify the agronomic practices to be followed and require monitoring and removal of volunteers in subsequent years.
For oil seed rape, the conditions of the research (Part B) consent require that the seeds produced by the plants are harvested and removed from the site. The field is then ploughed destroying the remaining plant material including the roots. Fallen seeds will remain in the soil. The consent holder is required to monitor the site in the subsequent two years, destroy any oil seed rape volunteers which germinate and submit a monitoring report to the Department.
For beet, the conditions of the consent require that at harvest the beet are lifted and removed from the site. The field is then ploughed destroying the remaining plant material including the roots. The GM plants are not permitted to flower so no seeds will be produced. The consent holder is required to monitor the site in the subsequent year, destroy any beet volunteers which arise and submit a monitoring report to the Department.
The GM maize in the evaluations has a Europe-wide approval for cultivation under Directive 90/220, which does not impose any conditions on growing. However, under the terms of the agreement with SCIMAC setting
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up the farm-scale evaluations the plants will be harvested and removed from the site which will then be ploughed destroying any remaining roots. Maize does not give rise to volunteers in subsequent seasons.
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) press notices and (b) consultation documents were issued by her Department during the summer recess. 
Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason the announcement of the results of her Department's tests into evidence for BSE in sheep has been postponed. 
Mr. Morley: An independent risk assessment company has been asked to perform a detailed audit of the Institute for Animal Health experiment, including how the relevant samples were stored and handled. We have also asked the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) to undertake to a longer time scale a rigorous assessment of the chain of custody arrangements for the IAH project. We will not know the full facts until the results are reported.
Mr. Morley: We will carry out a thorough review of the full range of scientific studies presently being undertaken in this area. In doing so we will take account of the research being undertaken elsewhere in Europe and the views of the Food and Standards Agency and the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee. Findings will be made available to the House.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what importance she attaches to traceability with regard to prevention of outbreaks of contagious disease in animals; and if she will make a statement. 
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Mr. Morley [holding answer 26 October 2001]: Traceability does not in itself give protection against outbreaks of disease, but it does enable possible contacts to be identified fully and more rapidly. Individual tracing of cattle is already possible and licensing of movement improves traceability for pigs, sheep and goats as well as cattle.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she plans to reinstate the task forces on hill and dairy farming and the supply chain; and when she expects them to publish their evidence. 
Mr. Morley: After an enforced break due to the demands of the foot and mouth disease, the milk task force resumed its work and on 12 October 2001 it held its first meeting since its activities were suspended in April. The milk task force hopes that it will be able to report quickly and to feed its findings into the Policy Commission on Food and Farming. No specific deadline has been set for it to complete its work. On completion, the milk task force's report will be placed in the Libraries of the House and will be publicly accessible on the DEFRA website http://www.defra.gov.uk/ and in the library of the Department at 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR.
The hills task force was set up on 23 November 2000 to do a specific job and report quickly. Its report was received in March and is available in the library of the Department at 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR.
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