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Genetically Modified Crops

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 1 April 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the event of ill-effects being discovered to flow from genetically modified crops, they, or the firms marketing the plants, will be liable in law for damages, and whether, if the former, they are themselves taking out insurance against this eventuality, or, if the latter, requiring the firms to do so. [HL1258]

Civil liability for damage caused by genetically modified organisms is governed by the common law as developed by the courts. Depending on the facts of the case, a public authority regulating the marketing of genetically modified organisms may be liable if it acts negligently. On the basis of common law principles, a firm marketing the genetically modified crop may be liable in law for any damage arising from ill effects attributed to the crop. There is no requirement placed on firms to take out insurance against this eventuality. Depending on the facts of the case, the statutory regime for product liability may also be relevant.