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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 22 January 2004


GM Crops

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the benefits of Bayer GM rice approved by her Department as animal feed on 7 January. [148610]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 January 2004]: The application by Bayer for the importation of herbicide tolerant rice (event LLRICE62) into the European Union is being considered under the procedures set out in Directive 2001/18/EC. The Directive requires each application to market GM crops for commercial importation or cultivation to be assessed on a case-by-case basis on the scientific evidence of any risks it may pose to human health or the environment. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment concluded that, "This GM rice does not pose a risk to human health and the environment. The marketing of this product for importation and processing in the UK will be no different from that of other rice imported for processing and animal feed purposes." No assessment is required or made of comparative advantages with other products. The full UK assessment of Bayer's application is available on the Defra website at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/regulation/euconsent.htm.

The UK is the lead member state on the application and therefore undertakes the initial assessment. The application and the UK's assessment will now be assessed by other EU member states and the Commission before a collective decision is made. Consent, if granted, would not permit cultivation of the rice in the EU nor, without separate approval, could it be used in human food.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to (a) conduct and (b) commission further research on how GM plants might invade new habitats. [148903]

Mr Morley: The Department has commissioned research on the potential invasiveness of GM crops. An example is "An Investigation of Feral Oilseed Rape Populations" the report of which was published in February 1999. Details of this and other Defra-funded research projects that have included a consideration of the invasiveness of GM crops are available on the Defra website at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/research.

In addition to work funded by the Department there has been a large body of research on the invasiveness of GM and other plants conducted elsewhere. This body of research was recently reviewed by the GM Science Review (details available from www.gmsciencedebate. org.uk). Chapter 6.2 of the their final report specifically considered research on the risks of invasiveness of GM crops.

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The risks of invasiveness of GM crops are carefully assessed prior to any release. The Government's statutory advisers on GM crop releases—the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE)—have advised that in the case of all previous releases, that the risks of invasiveness have been low. This view was supported by the Science Review. However both ACRE and the Science Review highlight the need to continually monitor developments and we are currently considering future research requirements in this area.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the evaluation of the costs and benefits of the commercial cultivation of GM crops in the UK over the next 10 to 15 years. [148905]

Mr. Morley: As part of the GM dialogue the Strategy Unit carried out a study of the costs and benefits of GM crops. This looked at not only the range of GM crops currently available, but also those that might be available in 10–15 years.

The unit concluded that GM crops could offer some cost and convenience advantages to UK farmers, although any economic benefit is likely to be limited in the short-term as only a narrow range of existing GM crops are currently suited to UK conditions, and weak consumer demand may limit take-up. In the longer term it concluded that future developments in GM crops have the potential to offer more wide-ranging benefits, to both farmers and consumers.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government will decide their GM food policy. [148906]

Mr. Morley: We are considering our policy on GM food and crops generally in the light of all the information we have gathered. That includes the reports of the public debate and the science review, the Strategy Unit's costs and benefits study, the AEBC's report on coexistence and liability, and now ACRE'S advice on the FSE results. We will set out our conclusions in due course.


Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research she has evaluated in which badgers have been systematically removed from an area, and the area kept free of badgers, where the incidence of TB in cattle has declined; and what conclusions she drew from this work. [148660]

Mr. Bradshaw: Four large-scale badger clearances have been carried out, at Thornbury in Avon (104 sq km), at Steeple Leaze in Dorset (12 sq km), at Hartland in North Devon (about 62 sq km) and in an area of East Offaly in the Irish Republic (738 sq km). All four clearances were followed by a reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle.

However, none of the previous TB control strategies that involved badger culling have been assessed in a properly designed experiment to establish their efficacy. While removal operations may have had an effect on the prevalence of TB in badgers and on herd breakdowns, other factors may also have influenced these. In the

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absence of scientific controls, it is not possible to separate out the effects of badger removal from these confounding factors.

A complete assessment of previous TB control strategies can be found in the 1997 Report on Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers by Professor John Krebs and the Independent Scientific Review Group (the "Krebs Report"), available in the House Library.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of the resources necessary to ensure that a given area is cleared and kept free of badgers, with particular reference to (a) number of visits and (b) personnel employed; [148651]

Mr. Bradshaw: As part of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), ten areas are subject to "proactive" treatment. As many badgers as possible within the design of the trial are culled in these areas (each approximately 100 sq km) and badger numbers are kept as low as possible. After the initial cull, the work involves an annual re-survey and cull of all proactive areas. However, the human resources for "proactive" work cannot be separately identified, except at disproportionate cost.

Information on the costs of trapping as a "proactive" culling method in the RBCT cannot be used to assess the resources required to clear an area of badgers, because this would require the use of snares, poisoning or gassing which have been ruled out by the Government on welfare grounds. The RBCT clears as many badgers as possible from proactive areas using cage traps, but this removes, at best, 80 per cent. of badgers.

The average number of field staff employed by the Veterinary Directorate Wildlife Unit for field operations in the RBCT and the associated costs by financial year are given in the following table:

WLU Field Staff and Costs

YearNumber of Field StaffTotal cost of Wildlife Unit(£ million)
2003–2004(1) 1336.8

(1) projected

For most of 2001, field staff were reassigned to dealing with the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. Over the first three years of the Trial, contracts to carry out initial Triplet surveying were negotiated with the Central Science Laboratory and ADAS and additionally small numbers of staff were deployed from elsewhere in the Department to support major proactive cull operations. Badger culling, however, is always carried out by Wildlife Unit personnel.

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Carbon Trust

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are in place to assess the effectiveness of the enhanced capital allowances scheme managed by the Carbon Trust; and if she will make a statement. [148915]

Mr Morley [holding answer 19 January 2004]: On behalf of Defra the Carbon Trust are carrying out an Impact Assessment of the Enhanced Capital Allowance for energy-saving technologies. Defra and the Carbon Trust will use the results of the assessment to consider further promotion of the scheme to ensure that it has the greatest possible impact.

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