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Potatoes

Volume 455: debated on Friday 26 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what environmental impact analysis has been conducted of blight-resistant potatoes in terms of (a) fungicide use and (b) the costs and risks of contamination. (110774)

I assume my hon. Friend’s question refers to the recent decision to approve trials of a genetically modified (GM) blight-resistant potato. It is planned to use less fungicide on the GM trial potatoes than in normal conventional practice, in order to test the effectiveness of their blight-resistance to UK strains of the disease. With regards cross-contamination, statutory conditions have been attached to the trials to ensure that no GM material enters the food, or animal feed, chain.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what safety information he has received from BASF plc in respect of their application for GM blight-resistant potatoes in the UK; and if he will place a copy in the Library. (110784)

The BASF application provided a range of safety assessment information, in line with the legislative requirements. A copy of the application will be placed in the Library of the House.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what risk assessments have been conducted on the viability of the 20 metre exclusion zone surrounding the GM potato trial sites; (110804)

(2) what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on separation distances required for GM potato trials; and what representations he has received calling for separation distances in excess of 20 metres.

The 20 metre separation distance was assessed as being appropriate by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). It based this view on a scientific report, published in 1996, that gave a comprehensive review of data on potato cross-pollination frequency. Several representations were received that referred to, or recommended, a separation distance above 20 m, and these were considered by ACRE before it finalised it’s advice to Ministers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the safety procedures for the genetically modified (GM) trial sites with respect to the potential for GM potato groundkeepers to survive until the next growing season. (110876)

Based on an assessment by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), conditions have been specified to ensure that genetically modified (GM) groundkeepers do not persist at the trial sites. The conditions require groundkeepers and volunteers (plants that develop from true seed) to be closely monitored and controlled after the trials have ended. The trial sites will not be released from statutory control until there have been two consecutive years in which no groundkeepers or volunteers are observed. The application of these provisions will be overseen by the DEFRA GM Inspectorate. ACRE’s advice and the statutory consent are available on the DEFRA website.