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23 Feb 2004 : Column 136Wcontinued
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the flood defence works in the Chorley constituency; how many contracts have been let in connection with it; and what the value of the contracts is. 
Heavy MaintenanceWork is to be carried out along the north bank, upstream of Fishery Bridge at the west side of Croston village. This will safeguard the existing flood defences against erosion: (estimated cost £20,000).
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which of the recommendations of the Warren Committee on Fresh Water Fisheries she plans to implement; and when.[R] 
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Warren, issued in February 2002, the Government accepted (in full or in part) most of the 195 recommendations made by the review group. Those which can be implemented without the need for primary legislation have now been implemented. Work is proceeding towards the development of primary legislation required to implement other accepted recommendations, and this will be taken forward as and when the pressure of the legislative programme on parliamentary time permits.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what costs have been incurred in administering game licences in each of the last four years for which figures are available; and what fee income was raised in each year. 
|Number of licences||Cost of administering (excluding VAT) (£)||Gross revenue (£)|
(16) There are no figures available for the years prior to 1999 and information for 200203 has yet to be received from the Post Office.
In addition to the licences referred to above, district councils and London borough councils issue licences to deal in game. No figures are collected centrally for the numbers of licences issued by councils. We understand that arrangements and charges vary.
Mr. Bradshaw: It is our intention to review the game laws, including the licensing provisions established by the Game Licences Act, 1861. Announcements about timing and scope of a review and consultation arrangements will be made in due course.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to commission independent research into the environmental effects of growing GM maize using pesticides other than Atrazine. 
Mr. Morley: Further research investigating the environmental effects of growing GM maize in relation to the phasing-out of Atrazine was recommended by the Government's statutory advisers on GM crop releasesThe Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE)in January 2004 (see www. Defra.gov.uk/environment/acre). Accordingly, we are currently considering our research requirements in this area.
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Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the maximum level of GM material in seed for planting to ensure a harvested crop does not contain more than the 0.9 per cent. threshold of GM material required under EU regulations for produce to be classified GM-free. 
Mr. Morley: I refer the right hon. Member to the assessment made by the EU Scientific Committee on Plants which advises that the Commission's proposed labelling thresholds for the marketing of seeds are based on the need to achieve the separate 0.9 per cent. labelling threshold for adventitious GM presence in non-GM food and feed products. Table 1 of the Scientific Committee's Opinion suggests that the Commission's proposed thresholds could achieve harvested crop thresholds of 0.81 per cent. for oilseed rape, 0.57 per cent. for maize and 0.67 per cent. for sugar beet.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the economic (a) benefits and (b) disbenefits to UK farmers of growing GM maize. 
Mr. Morley: As part of the GM Dialogue the Strategy Unit carried out a study of the costs and benefits of GM crops. Their report "Field Work: weighing up the costs and benefits of GM crops" was published on 11 July last year. 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.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to commission independent research on (a) gene transfer and (b) co-existence in relation to GM crops. 
Mr. Morley: Details of previously commissioned research on gene flow from GM crops are available at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/research/index.htm. Several Defra-funded projects looking at aspects of gene flow that are relevant to co-existence are still in progress. We constantly review our research requirements and may commission further work in future. The Government is currently considering a report on co-existence by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission.
Mr. Morley: No such vote is proposed on 18 February as there is no official moratorium on this matter in the EU. The Government supports the European Commission's view that the EU has an operating legislative framework for the consideration of applications for consent to market GM food and crops on the basis of proper human health and environmental
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safety criteria. The vote on 18 February was in relation to one such application for consent made within this framework
The application under consideration is for the import and marketing of GM maize line NK603 for processing for use as animal feed. Consent for this GM maize, if granted, would not permit cultivation or use in food. Four varieties of GM maize already have EU marketing consents which were granted in 199798.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice her Department has (a) given to and (b) received from the UK delegates attending European Commission regulatory standing and management committees on GM seed. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 9 February 2004]: The Government has advised UK delegates attending EU committee meetings on GM seeds to support, in principle, the introduction of measures, including labelling provisions, to control adventitious GM presence in non-GM seeds. UK delegates have reported on the discussions that have taken place. The Government is still considering its position with regard to the levels at which any thresholds for the adventitious presence of GMOs in seeds should be set.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to (a) announce her policy on growing GM crops in the UK and (b) decide the outcome of applications for licences to grow GM crops which are the responsibility of the UK to determine. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 9 February 2004]: The Government is now considering its overall policy on GM crops in the light of all the available information. This includes the reports of the public debate and science review, the study of the costs and benefits, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission's report on co-existence and liability and the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment's advice on the Farm Scale Evaluation research. We are aiming to set out our conclusions shortly.
The procedures for considering applications to release or market genetically modified organisms are set out in EC Directive 2001/18. Currently 13 applications to place GM crops on the market for cultivation have been submitted to EU member states, none of these applications have been made through the UK as the lead member state.
If the lead member state considers that an application complies with the Directive it is required to forward its assessment report to the European Commission. The application is then subject to a collective decision by all member states.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will ensure that UK decisions on applications to (a) grow and (b) use GM crops and foodstuffs are subject to parliamentary approval. 
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the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms or the Novel Foods Regulation 258/97, and in the implementing legislation. These were subject to parliamentary scrutiny at the time. The legislation provides for decisions to be taken on individual applications by Government. Final decisions on commercial approvals for GM crops and foodstuffs are taken collectively by EU member states.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the basis of the decision by the Belgian Government to refuse an application for a licence to grow GM oilseed rape in the EU. 
Mr. Morley: Applications for the deliberate release of GM organisms into the environment are assessed under the procedures set out in EC Directive 2001/18. No assessment has been made by the UK Government of the application to import and cultivate "Ms8xRf3" GM oil seed rape because notification of the Belgian competent authority's opinion has not yet been circulated by the Commission. When the application and the Belgian assessment is forwarded to us we will consider it very carefully in the light of the scientific evidence of any risks it may pose to human health and the environment.
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