CODE OF PRACTICE ON THE PROVISION OF INFORMATION
RELATING TO GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
Modern plant biotechnology extends the scope
and precision of conventional plant breeding. Techniques such
as genetic modification (GM) offer significant improvements in
crop production and utilisation, with benefits to agriculture,
the food industry, consumers and the environment.
The provision of information relating to genetically
modified crops will play an important role in ensuring best practice
is adopted by all those involved in the production, handling,
storage, processing and marketing of these products.
An effective information delivery system along
the food supply chain for UK-produced GM crops is also needed
to provide consumer choice and satisfy consumer demands for information
about the use of GM in food production.
This Code of Practice has been developed to
establish a consistent, industry-wide approach to information
supply for GM crops from seed to primary end-product. This will
provide the information required by those further along the food
chain to manage storage and processing operations effectively,
to conserve the value of the harvested commodity and to ensure
appropriate record-keeping and onward transfer of information.
All GM material entering the food chain must
comply with legal requirements relating to environmental release,
marketing consent and food safety.
All parties must take reasonable steps to ensure
that the information provided is accurate and presented in a clear,
concise and readily understood format.
This Code of Practice will be subject to annual
Plant breeders are required to identify and
provide comprehensive information relating to GM crop varieties
to comply with the requirements of statutory trials within the
EU. This information is publicly available through independent
published sources such as the EU Common Catalogue and national
recommended and descriptive lists.
To ensure best practice across all sectors of
the industry, and to provide traceability for individual consignments
of GM varieties, the consenting parties (BSPB, NFU, UKASTA) recognise
the need for successive transfer of supplementary information
at strategic points along the food chain:
by seed merchants: to market
GM varieties and advise growers of the unique features of the
by growers: to manage seed
handling and crop husbandry effectively, to ensure appropriate
record-keeping and storage arrangements and to market the harvested
by merchants and wholesalers:
to ensure appropriate record-keeping and transfer of information
during storage and onward distribution.
To comply with the requirements and objectives
of this Code of practice, the licenser of the GM technology and/or
developer of the variety should ensure that the following information
is available to growerseither directly or via the seed
supply tradein relation to each GM crop variety:
The variety is genetically modified
The nature of the modification(s)
Specific husbandry and management advice
A combination of communication routes will be
required to ensure that the necessary information is available
to the relevant personnel and in an appropriate format at each
stage in the seed marketing and primary production process:
1. Variety Guides
Independent UK variety guides will identify
which varieties have been developed using genetic modification
and, in each case, the nature of the modification(s).
2. Marketing Literature
Commercial sales and marketing material produced
by the licenser of the GM technology and/or the developer of the
variety should state clearly that a variety has been developed
using genetic modification and the nature of the modification(s).
It should also provide basic advice on good husbandry and farm
management practice, particularly where this differs from conventional
crops, as well as details of where further advice can be obtained
(e.g., Information Helpline).
3. Seed leaflet
All growers purchasing GM seed should receive
an explanatory leaflet stating clearly that the variety has been
developed using genetic modification and the nature of the modification(s).
It should also provide basic management advice relating to handling,
storage and transportation of the seed, as well as details of
where additional management and husbandry advice can be obtained
(e.g., Information Helpline).
4. Seed package identifier
A visual identifier, exclusive to GM varieties,
should be clearly displayed on the label of each package of GM
seed. This will help to ensure that the seed is handled and stored
on-farm according to best management practice, and to inform farm
personnel that supplementary management and husbandry advice is
5. Information Helpline
The licenser of the GM technology and/or developer
of the variety should provide a telephone information service
to answer specific requests for more detailed information from
growers and/or the seed supply trade relating to the product and
To comply with the requirements of this Code
of Practice, each GM crop should be identifiable by variety at
all stages, from initial seed stock through production, harvesting
The importance of good agriculture practice,
including record-keeping and segregation of varieties, is recognised
by growers as a vital component in meeting the quality assurance
demands of the food industry and, ultimately, of consumers.
The NFU will continue to communicate the importance
of record-keeping to its members. Other information supplied to
farmers in relation to GM crop varieties should also highlight
the significance of record-keeping in safeguarding the value and
integrity of the harvested commodity, and in transferring information
further along the food chain.
Basic guidelines for good agricultural practice
when growing GM crops with specific agronomic traits should be
encouraged. Summary guidelines, where developed, should be followed
in combination with variety-specific information.
When transported off the farm to the merchants
and wholesalers, each GM crop consignment should be accompanied
by a post-harvest declaration which should include the name of
The provision of such information should be
maintained during subsequent transportation of consignments. Those
involved with GM crops post-farm should address the issues of
continued transfer of information and traceability of such crops.
In addressing these and other points attention should be paid
to the basic principles contained within this document.
The flow chart below identifies the strategic
points along the crop-based food supply chain at which information
transfer will be required to ensure the aims of this Code of Practice
are fulfilled. The boxed section illustrates the role of this
Code of Practice, which fulfils the information requirements of
the primary supply chain from seed supplier to primary end-product.
Organisations further along the food chain,
from primary processors to food retailers, are encouraged to ensure
that the successive transfer of information is maintained. This
will enable the industry to comply with statutory food labelling
requirements, and to provide supplementary consumer information
on a voluntary basis.
CODE OF PRACTICE TO ESTABLISH A CONSISTENT
APPROACH TO PROVIDING INFORMATION TO FARMERS AND GROWERS REGARDING
GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
January 1997 (Revised June 1997)
This document has been drafted by the National
Farmers' Union following consultation with the British Society
of Plant Breeders.
The aim is to encourage best practice among
farmers and growers who choose to grow genetically modified crops.
In order to achieve this it is imperative that they receive sufficient
pertinent information about these new crops.
This code of practice seeks to ensure that a
consistent approach to provision of information is adopted by
the seed supply industry. It details the type of information that
should be provided to farmers and growers, and how that information
is best communicated.
There is also a clear need for consumer information
regarding food containing genetically modified material. Food
Labelling will play an important part in informing consumers and
providing consumer choice. Labelling food products will be on
a statutory and voluntary basis. It is essential that an effective
information supply system is provided all along the food chain
from primary producer to the retail point of sale. This code of
practice seeks to ensure that this information system is in place.
National Farmers' Union
1. IntroductionThe need for information
The National Farmers Union and the British Society
of Plant Breeders have recognised that the appropriate use of
genetically modified crops will be the responsibility of farmers
and growers. They therefore need to receive sufficient pertinent
information, to ensure that they are sufficiently informed of
how to use the products and are aware of any necessary changes
to farm management practices.
Provision of clear, relevant information along
the food chain is necessary to ensure that food businesses can
fulfil their food labelling obligations (whether statutory or
voluntary). This will require a continuous information supply
chain from plant breeders and seed merchants, to farmers and growers,
merchants and wholesalers and retailers.
A consistent approach by industry is highly
desirable, especially in the early years of commercialisation
of genetically modified crops varieties. The adoption of this
code by the seeds industry will ensure that the benefits of this
new technology are realised, and that confidence in its safety
2. Who needs information on the farm?
Information is needed at three levels in farm
(i) The manager or owner, who is responsible
for cropping policies, making the seed purchasing decisions and
selling the final crop on to their customers;
(ii) The unit manager who is organising
the implementation of the cropping programme and takes possession
of the seed;
(iii) The operator who will be undertaking
the day to day operations.
3. What information is needed?
(i) Farmers and growers need to know that
the seed is genetically modified. This will ensure that
information which may be required by the end consumer, is available
throughout the supply chain. It may be necessary to label the
end food product to identify that it contains genetically modified
material. This information must therefore be available at the
point of primary products so that it can be passed onto customers
and ultimately to the final consumer.
(ii) Farmers and growers need to be informed
of the nature of the modification. This will ensure that
the farmer is able to make an informed decision when purchasing
seed, and to provide information to allow him to make any necessary
adjustments to farm management practices.
(iii) Farmers and growers may require further
advice on good farm management practice. For certain genetically
modified products, such as herbicide tolerant crops, or crops
modified for industrial purposes, special management conditions
may be required. Clear advice on any necessary changes to farm
practices is needed, including why such changes are necessary,
and what problems might occur if these changes are not implemented.
Advice should cover management of potential volunteer problems,
minimising cross-contamination both in the field and in storage,
and accidental spillage during haulage.
(iv) Farmers and growers should be made aware
of the importance of record keeping. Long-term record keeping
will become increasingly important with the introduction of genetically
modified herbicide tolerant and "designer" oil crops.
This will be particularly important where farms or parcels of
land are managed on short-term contracts. The importance of record
keeping, to minimise problems in the future, needs to be highlighted
by the supplying companies.
(v) Farmers and growers may also require
supplementary information and advice on management practices.
Companies supplying genetically modified crops should offer their
customers an additional information and advice service.
4. How should information be communicated?
A combination of communication approaches will
be needed to ensure that the appropriate farm personnel receive
sufficient, pertinent information that is easily understood. The
necessary communication approaches, over and above normal sales
and marketing literature, should include:
(i) Explanatory information in sales literature
and the NIAB handbook. In making a purchasing decision, a
manager or owner will be relying on information provided by commercial
marketing material and the NIAB handbook.
(ii) Explanatory information in a leaflet
accompanying the seed. The unit manager and the operator will
rely on the information provided with the seed.
(iii) An identifier on seed sacks.
An identifier on the seed sack is necessary to alert farm personnel
to the supplementary information, and to ensure that farm operators
do not unwittingly mix genetically modified and conventional seed
(iv) An information help-line. While
making a purchasing decision, or making adjustments to management
practices, a farmer may require supplementary information and
advice. A telephone information service should be provided by
The information provided ((i) and (ii) above)
should not be too detailed. It does not need to offer in-depth
"best-practice", merely to alert all concerned to any
differences from conventional crops, and any adjustments to management
practices that are necessary. More detailed information can be
provided to farmers through an information "help-line".
5. The information required
The necessary information should be communicated
to farmers and growers as "good farm practice".
(i) Good Farm Practice. Farmers must
be aware of the nature of the modification, and be aware of any
special management practices that might be necessary.
The use of crops genetically modified for
herbicide tolerance will inevitably lead to herbicide tolerant
volunteers in subsequent crops. They may persist for many years
after the crop has been grown commercially. Farmers must be aware
of any possibility and be provided with management advice on how
best to minimise possible problems.
Advice should cover seed handling, storage
and transportation. The importance of segregation from conventional
varieties and the need for due diligence should be highlighted.
Long-term record keeping will become increasingly
important as farmers use crops genetically modified for herbicide
tolerance and for industrial uses. For example, oilseed rape can
remain in the soil for 10 or more years after the commercial crop
is grown. Volunteers from an oilseed rape crop, genetically modified
to produce an industrial oil, could lead to accidental cross contamination
of oilseed crops grown in subsequent years, in the same, or adjacent,
It is therefore important that farmers record
the location and nature of such crops, so that future cropping
and treatments can be planned effectively. This will ensure that
any potential cross contamination between oilseed rape crops can
be avoided. Long-term records will be particularly important where
land is farmed on a short-term contract basis. It is clearly in
a farmer's interest to keep records and the need to do so should
be highlighted as an integral part of "good farm practice"
rather than as something additional.
The importance and relevance of long-term
record keeping should be included in the explanatory information
accompanying the seed, and in the NIAB handbook. The NFU will
also play a role in highlighting the importance of record keeping
to NFU members.
(ii) Information help-line. By providing
a telephone information service to farmers and growers, supplying
companies will ease product introduction and help build understanding
and confidence in the product and the technology in general.
Farmers may require more detailed information
via a telephone help-line prior to making their purchasing decision,
and after they have received the seed. The telephone number for
any help-line service provided should be prominently displayed
on marketing literature and on explanatory information accompanying
the seed. We encourage supplying companies to provide this type
of information service to farmers and growers.
(iii) Labelling Seed Pack. It is important
that an identifier is used on the seed package itself, in order
to inform the farmer/farm operator that the seed is different
from conventional varieties. It should also alert him to the accompanying
The identifier should be simple and consistent
across different species and varieties. It should be located on
the official section of the official label.
Further discussion is needed to determine
the most appropriate identifier. Suggestions include a simple
logo, or form of words. Any identifier must be factual, meaningful
and should not be misleading.
on seed sack
|The seed is genetically modified||3
|THE NATURE OF THE MODIFICATION
|Advice on good farm practice||
|The need for long term record keeping||
|Detailed additional advice||
|TELEPHONE NUMBER OF HELP-LINE
TO MAFF CONSULTATION
National Farmers Union (NFU)
British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB)
British Agrochemicals Association (BAA)
United Kingdom Agricultural Supply Trade Association (UKASTA)
British Sugar Beet Seed Producers Association (BSBSPA)
The organisations listed above believe modern plant biotechnology,
including genetic modification, offers major scope for progress
in crop production and utilisation. The technology holds significant
benefits for farmers, food producers, consumers and the environment.
As UK agriculture moves towards a more free and open global trading
environment, the advances made possible by this new technology
will play a key role in maintaining the viability and competitiveness
of our farming and food industries.
These five organisations, together representing the UK agriculture
and supply sectors, recognise the need to demonstrate an open
and responsible approach to the introduction and application of
this new technology. To promote best practice in the production
and use of genetically modified crops, an industry Code of
Practice on the Provision of Information relating to Genetically
Modified Crops, issued earlier this year, was developed jointly
by BSPB, NFU and UKASTA following widespread consultation over
a 12 month period.
This Code of Practice provides for the development of specific
guidelines for good agricultural practice when growing GM crops
with particular agronomic traits. Together with the Assured Combinable
Crops Scheme and the MAFF Codes of Good Agricultural Practice,
it therefore offers an appropriate framework within which to address
the issues raised in the Ministry's consultation document on genetically
modified herbicide tolerant (GMHT) crops.
The organisations listed above firmly believe that industry
itself is best placed to develop practical guidance on the growing
of GMHT crops but with a leading government involvement in the
promotion and distribution of that guidance. This approach would
support the existing comprehensive regulatory framework controlling
the development and commercialisation of these products. Such
an approach is in line with the Government's deregulatory policy
and would allow for a more flexible and dynamic framework, responsive
to new developments in the production of these crops either as
a result of practical experience or technological advances.
The industry-sponsored Code of Practice on the Provision
of Information has been well-received among potential users and
consumers of GM crops and, in consultation with Government and
other interested parties, forms a good basis on which to build
flexible and appropriate guidance for the cultivation of GMHT
Plans are already well-advanced to develop industry guidance
for the on-farm management and cultivation of GMHT crops. The
MAFF consultation exercise provides an opportunity for these guidelines
to take account of the full spectrum of views on this issue.
Areas to be covered should be specific to GMHT crops, with
cross-referencing to other documents and codes as appropriate,
in particular the MAFF Codes of Good Agricultural Practice, the
Assured Combinable Crops Scheme, and the industry-sponsored code
on the provision of GM crop information.
These areas will include:
(a) labelling of the seed sack or package, and information
contained in relevant accompanying documentation, in particular
to ensure that the GMHT variety can be readily identified by the
operator to prevent inadvertent herbicide applications to non-tolerant
(b) provision of specific husbandry and management information
to accompany the seed;
(c) clearly identified contact advice points or helplines
from which farmers can seek additional information.
(a) reference to principles of good agricultural practice
when growing and harvesting arable crops;
(b) guidance on recommended separation distances or voluntary
(c) specific guidance on management of volunteers and
(d) specific guidance on management of cropping plans
(e) guidance on timing of spray applications and/or use
of field margin buffer zones.
(This section will take account of guidelines already prepared
by the British Agrochemicals Association covering certain aspects
of the production and management of GMHT crops).
3. Record Keeping
(a) reference will be made to existing requirements for
on-farm record-keeping and any additional data considered appropriate;
(b) guidance on format of records, who should keep them
and for how long;
(c) advice on procedures for transferring records or making
information available to others (in the case of short-term tenancies
or when contractors are used, the provision of accurate, up-to-date
farm records will be essential to ensure the effective management
of GMHT crops).
(a) industry guidance will consider the role of a post-approval
monitoring or feedback system, particularly in the initial stages
of the introduction of GMHT crops, to assess their performance
and to provide early information.
The MAFF consultation document refers specifically to measures
aimed at preventing the development of multiple tolerance in GMHT
crops. Practical advice contained in these guidelines to minimise
the risk of out-crossing and spread of volunteers will control
the risk of involuntary build up of multiple tolerance in the
cultivated and non-cultivated environment. The commercial introduction
of crop varieties with multiple herbicide tolerance will be subject
to stringent regulatory approval before release.
In developing this guidance, the organisations concerned
will take account of any comments received by MAFF in response
to the present consultation. It is planned to issue draft guidelines
for comment, covering the areas outlined above, by 30 November
1997, with a view to securing final agreement by 31 December 1997.
Once issued, the guidelines will be subject to annual review,
taking account of new developments in the technology, practical
on-farm experience and the input of ongoing research and extension
11 September 1997