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Gm Crops

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the consultation on genetically modified crops. [126117]

The public debate on GM issues ('GM Nation?') is being managed by an independent steering board at arm's length from Government. The public phase of the debate was launched on 3 June and was followed by six regional launch events. Further local meetings have been organised throughout the UK by organisations and individuals, and the public were also able to participate via the interactive debate website. As of 11 July, over 17,000 feedback questionnaires had been received. The Steering Board is due to submit its report to Government in September.The public debate is one strand of a wider GM dialogue announced by the Secretary of State last July, which also comprises a Science Review and a study by the Strategy Unit into the overall costs and benefits of GM crops. The Strategy Unit's report was published on 11 July; the report is available online at and a copy has also been placed in the Library. The report of the science review was published on 21 July. Both the Strategy Unit and the Science Review panel have invited comments on their reports. The Food Standards Agency also published its report on "Consumers views on GM food" on 16 July, which represents the FSA's contribution to the public debate.Separately, we are expecting publication of the results of our Farm Scale Evaluation (FSE) crop trials this autumn, which will then be in the public domain, and people will be able to comment on them if they wish. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which will provide independent advice to Government on the implications of the FSE results, has decided to hold a special meeting in public to take evidence on the results from experts and stakeholders.Before any GM crop can be cultivated in the EU, each member state has the opportunity to scrutinise the application for marketing consent for commercial cultivation. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis under EC Directive 2001/18 on the deliberate release of Genetically Modified Organisms into the environment. The directive provides for mandatory public consultation on each application.We will decide our policy on the commercial cultivation of GM crops based on an objective assessment of all the available information, including the reports of the three strands of the GM dialogue and the results of our Farm Scale Evaluation crop trials.