John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his policy is on proposals for changes to the United Nations convention on biological diversity to legalise an international market in terminator seeds.
Elliot Morley (Minister of State (Climate Change and Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Scunthorpe, Labour)
I have been asked to reply.
Terminator seeds are plants bred using genetic use restriction technologies known as GURTs. The parties to the United Nations convention on biological diversity decided, in 2000, that there should be a precautionary approach to the use of GURTs while research into the possible impacts of these technologies was carried out. Parties at the meeting in March, this year, will consider a recommendation by the convention's subsidiary body for scientific technical and technological advice to reaffirm the previous decision. The subsidiary body's recommendation also encourages parties to continue to undertake further research on the impacts of GURTs and to share information from these studies and addresses capacity building for decision making in developing countries. Parties at the meeting will also consider a report on related matters from one of the convention's inter-sessional working groups before deciding what further decision is appropriate.
Our position at the meeting will take full account of these reports, as well as the EU's own regulatory regime which requires that no GM seed may be marketed in the EU unless it has been specifically approved by the member states. Decisions on applications to market GMOs are made on a case-by-case basis taking full account of a scientific assessment of the particular GMO and the risks associated with its use against the criteria in the EU legislation. An application for a GMO incorporating GURTs would be dealt with in the same way as any other GMO. Approval would only be granted if the evidence showed that a deliberate release of the GMO would not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.