Previous Section Index Home Page

GM Crops

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will set out the sequence for regulation of the approval process for GM crops in the UK. [63592]

Mr. Meacher: Before a GMO, including a GM crop, can be released in the UK or the EU it must be assessed for safety to human health and the environment and be approved under either Part B or Part C of Directive 90/220/EEC on the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms.

Directive 90–220 has been updated and is being replaced by the new Directive 2001/18/EC, which must be implemented by member states by October 2002. My Department is currently consulting the public on draft implementing regulations for England. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Parliamentary libraries and are available on the DEFRA website 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.

Decision making on proposed non-commercial releases of GMOs under Part B of the directive (e.g. research trials) occurs at the member state level. In England, a person wishing to undertake such a release must apply to DEFRA for a Part B consent, whereupon DEFRA seeks independent expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment (ACRE) before a

1 Jul 2002 : Column 64W

decision is taken on whether to grant or refuse a consent. Where appropriate the advice of other experts, for instance the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, will also be sought. Directive 2001–18 clarifies and extends risk assessments to ensure that "direct, indirect, immediate and delayed" effects on human health and the environment are covered. It also introduces a new requirement for mandatory public consultation before decisions on Part B applications are taken. We propose that such consultation should last for a minimum of 48 days.

Decision-making on proposed commercial releases of GMOs under Part C of the directive occurs at the EU level. A person wishing to market a GMO in the EU must apply for a Part C consent to a competent authority of one of the member states, and the competent authority must prepare a report recommending a course of action. If the report recommends that a consent is refused, the application is rejected. If the report recommends that a consent is granted it must be forwarded to the European Commission and other member states, which discuss the application and can ask for further information, make comments on, or present reasoned objections to, the proposed release. Under the new directive, the Commission must also consult the public (for two separate periods of 30 days) while the application is being considered, and responses are copied to all member states. The Commission and member states then make a collective decision on the application, and a Part C consent is either granted or refused.

Directive 2001–18 also introduces "post-market monitoring", under which any GMO which is granted a Part C consent must be monitored for unanticipated effects on the environment. The new directive (like its predecessor) ensures that if new information comes to light regarding the risks posed by the GMO to human health or the environment, the consent can be altered or revoked as appropriate.

GM crops are also subject to other legislation. Varieties of the main agricultural and vegetable species, whether GM or non-GM, cannot be marketed commercially until they have been added to the UK national list of plant varieties or to the EU Common Catalogue (a compendium of member states' national lists). Addition to the national list is dependent on satisfactory completion of a minimum of two years of listing trials, to establish that the variety is distinct, uniform and stable and, for agricultural species, has a value for cultivation and use in the UK. A GM crop cannot be formally proposed for addition to the national list until it has Part C marketing approval under the deliberate release directive (and Novel Foods authorisation where appropriate).

In addition to clearance of the crop itself, any foods obtained from a GM crop would have to be approved under the EU Novel Foods Regulation EC/258/97. The Food Standards Agency is the UK competent authority for this legislation. Furthermore, if the GM crop is a herbicide tolerant variety, the associated herbicide use would have to be approved under pesticides legislation.

1 Jul 2002 : Column 65W

Agricultural Shows

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the criteria are for the cost-effectiveness of her Department's stands at agricultural shows. [61813]

Mr. Morley: DEFRA assesses which events it will attend on the basis of target audience and the messages it is trying to communicate. Also taken into account are the numbers and geographical spread of the people who attend the shows.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many visitors to the South of England Agricultural Show visited her Department's stand. [61812]

Mr. Morley: No head count of visitors to DEFRA stands at agricultural shows, including the South of England, have been made. The stands have been designed to represent a forward looking approach and to enable effective and accessible explanation of:

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much money the Department has paid contractors for foot and mouth related work; and how much further money is owed. [58063]

Mr. Morley: By 24 May 2002 DEFRA and the Rural Payments Agency had spent over £1,100 million on goods and services to eradicate the disease.

Quantity surveyors, forensic accountants and claims surveyors are currently verifying and substantiating contractor accounts.

Wide ranging issues have arisen on the accounts. These include legal issues such as matters of contractual interpretation, forensic accountancy issues and evidential issues involving the assessment of both a large amount of documentation and proofing of witnesses. Some of these disputes will inevitably result in court proceedings, although DEFRA remains committed to resolving matters by mediation where appropriate.

In these circumstances it is not possible at present for reasons of legal and commercial confidentiality to disclose how much, if any, further money is owed.


Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the contribution that she expects the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Regulations 2002 (S.I., 2002, No. 843) to make to the delivery of the National Scrapie Plan. [61550]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: The National Scrapie Plan is a long term programme aimed at breeding resistance to TSEs into the national sheep flock. Currently it runs on a voluntary basis. It is in no way affected by, or reliant upon, the powers available under the TSE (England) Regulations 2002, which make

1 Jul 2002 : Column 66W

provision for the enforcement and administration of EU legislation on TSEs and consolidate previously existing domestic legislation.

Fallen Stock

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of the impact on the competitiveness of British farmers of the existence within the EU of different levels of state aid for eliminating (a) fallen stock and (b) slaughterhouse waste; [61498]

Mr. Morley [Holding answer 13 June 2002]: DEFRA officials attended a working group with EU counterparts and the Commission where the working paper "Animal Waste and Fallen Stock—State Aid Policy Issues" was discussed, with a view to ensuring consistency in the application of state aid rules relating to animal waste and fallen stock in all Member States. We support the harmonisation of government support given to industry for the disposal of animal wastes and fallen stock. The UK position is that the costs of the collection and disposal of livestock fallen on farm are the responsibility of the farming industry: an application of the so-called "polluter pays" principle.


Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what area is planted to short rotation coppice and miscanthus grass in the UK; and if she will make a statement. [64126]

Margaret Beckett: 1,800 hectares of energy crops have been planted in the UK. This is primarily short rotation coppice but includes about 50 hectares of miscanthus. This Department has allocated support of £29 million to solid biomass crops through the Energy Crops Scheme, part of the England Rural Development Programme. Working with other Departments we have put in place schemes with funding of £70 million which will develop markets for biomass, including purpose grown energy crops and material from forests, in heat, combined heat and power and electricity generation. We are also working closely with the Countryside Agency which has launched the Community Renewables Initiative to help local communities develop renewable energy projects. The Renewables Obligation permits the co-firing of energy crops with fossil fuels. The Government have also welcomed the publication of the Energy Review by the Performance and Innovation Unit, which draws attention to the key role of renewable energy sources,

1 Jul 2002 : Column 67W

including energy crops, in moving to a low carbon economy. Consultation on the key recommendations of the report will lead to a White Paper in the autumn.

Next Section Index Home Page