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Gm Crops

Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the (a) accuracy and (b) reliability of information submitted by GM consent applicants; and what her policy is on where liability should lie for damage to (i) human, (ii) animal and (iii) environmental health of GM releases.[119077]

The legislation requires all applications for consent to release or market genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be supported by a dossier of information about the GMO and its properties and an assessment of the risk to human health and the environment from the proposed release. This information is scrutinised by officials for compliance with relevant legislation. Scientific assessment of the dossiers is carried out by independent experts; the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, the Food Standards Agency, the statutory nature conservation agencies and the Health and Safety Executive. Consent to release would only be issued if these advisors are satisfied as regards the reliability and accuracy of the information provided by the applicant.As regards liability, approval for a GMO release will only be given if the relevant authorities are satisfied that all appropriate measures are being taken to avoid adverse effects on human health and the environment. There are specific provisions in Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act giving powers to the courts and the Secretary of State to remedy harm that results from the commission of an offence. Otherwise currently there are no specific liability provisions in relation to GM releases. Depending on the circumstances, however, a claim for redress could be made through the courts under existing general legal principles. The independent Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission is preparing a report to Government on GM crop liability. We will consider this issue further in the light of that report.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which (a) organisations and (b) individuals were invited by her to debate the future of GM crops in the South West on Saturday 7 June in Taunton; and how they were chosen.[119653]

[holding answer 16 June 2003]: GM Nation?—the public debate on GM issues—is being run by an independent Steering Board at arm's length from Government. The regional public launch events, such as the one in Taunton on 7 June, were open to all—no specific organisations or individuals were invited. The date, time and venue were publicised in press releases on 13 May and 3 June and also at the launch of the debate on 3 June. The information was also available on the website and received widespread media coverage. Individuals who wished to attend were asked to register in advance and tickets were made available on a first come, first served basis. The events involved facilitated active participation in small discussion groups, which limited their overall size. Two sessions were held at Taunton in response to demand.