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Genetically Modified Organisms

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many research projects have been commissioned by his Department in each year from 1987 to date concerning the genetic modification of (a) organisms and (b) micro-organisms. [17736]

[holding answer 25 November 1997]: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from J. Chisholm to Mr. Paul Tyler, dated 27 November 1997:

I have been asked to reply to your question about research projects concerned with the genetic modification of organisms and micro-organisms as most work of this nature is carried out for the Ministry of Defence by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).
The genetic modification work undertaken at DERA's Chemical and Biological Defence Sector (CBD) at Porton Down is all concerned with micro-organisms. None of the work is concerned with the genetic modification of higher organisms.
Health and Safety legislation requires that all projects involving genetic manipulation in the UK must be approved by local Genetic Manipulation Safety Committees (GMSC). The GMSC at CBD has approved the following experiments per year since 1987.

Year

Number of projects

19878
198811
198919
19908
199112
199219
199315

Year

Number of projects

199413
19958
199620
1997 (to 18 November 1997)14

All these projects are part of an overall defensive research programme to provide safe and effective protection for the UK Armed Forces in the event of chemical or biological attack.

It would not be in the national interest for me to give details of these projects.

I am sorry I cannot be more helpful on this occasion.