In 2006 DEFRA consulted stakeholders on proposals for managing the coexistence of GM and non-GM crops in England, should approved GM varieties be grown here commercially in the future. The proposals were consistent with the Government’s overall policy on GM crops, as set out in the parliamentary statement made by the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett), on 9 March 2004, Official Report, column 1379.
A factual summary of the consultation responses has been published on the DEFRA’s website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/crops/index.htm. We are grateful to everyone who responded and have considered the various comments made very carefully. It is clear that before our coexistence plans can be finalised we should await various developments that could have an important bearing on how we move forward. These include the following:
Receipt of New Scientific Evidence
The DEFRA consultation paper noted that new research evidence was expected to come forward for consideration in due course, in relation to crop separation distances in particular. There are three important research projects on coexistence that are due to report by next spring (1 DEFRA-funded and 2 EU-funded). After reflecting on the consultation responses, we are also commissioning some further research to improve the evidence-base in certain areas.
The EU is expected to adopt specific thresholds for labelling adventitious GM presence in conventional seeds. These will dictate what level of GM material might be in the seeds sown by non-GM farmers. This in turn bears directly on what coexistence measures need to achieve, in terms of minimising the potential for further GM transfer into non-GM crops. We should await clarification of what seed thresholds are to be adopted.
No commercial GM cultivation is expected in England for several years, but it remains our intention to have appropriate coexistence measures in place beforehand. We will clarify in due course how we intend to proceed in the light of the expected developments noted above, and having considered the consultation responses from stakeholders.