There have been 185 genetically modified crop trial sites in England since 2001, including the individual fields that formed part of the farm-scale evaluations programme.
In 2003, the GM nation public debate revealed widespread mistrust of the Government and multinationals, while the biotechnology commission into co-existence urged that farmers growing GM crops must follow strict, legally enforceable protocols. So why, last week, did the Secretary of State sanction a GM potato crop trial near Long Eaton close to north-west Leicestershire, demonstrating such a weak co-existence framework? Will the Minister reassure the public that these matters will be seriously scrutinised in detail in this place?
I can certainly assure the public that our top priority remains protecting consumers and the environment. We allowed this crop trial to go ahead only after rigorous assessment. We took advice from the independent body that deals with these matters—the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment—and it confirmed that there were no issues to prevent a trial from taking place. The potatoes grown there will not go into the food chain and strict crop separation distances will be enforced, so we do not believe that there is any problem here. I would also point out that three other European countries are undertaking similar trials at the moment and no issues have been raised there.