GM Crops

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 22nd April 2004.

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Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford 11:30 am, 22nd April 2004

If she will support a European marketing consent for sweetcorn from genetically modified maize line Bt 11.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government are accepting the advice that there are no reasons not to support the application by Syngenta for approval under the European novel foods regulations for sweetcorn from genetically modified maize line Bt11.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Belgian Government, the French Government and the Austrian Government have raised serious concerns about the scientific testing of this sweetcorn, which is designed for human consumption, and its safety? How can he support the marketing of this product when it has been tested under outdated and inadequate novel foods regulation, despite the fact that a much more rigorous testing regime has just become law in the EU?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I understand that the application complies with the more rigorous rules introduced by the EU, but I will check that point because I have a great deal of respect for my hon. Friend, who takes a great interest in the matter. A number of countries have raised concerns about the maize, but those points do not all concern testing and food safety. The range of issues includes traceability and labelling, and we sympathise with those concerns. The concerns raised by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes were put to the lead authority, and they were answered in full to the committee's satisfaction. The maize has been approved for food use in the EU since 1998 and the Food Standards Agency and the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes believe that their concerns have been answered satisfactorily.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister

Is the Minister aware that various farm-scale trials were conducted in my constituency and that the industry's response was mixed? Many organic farmers are dead against GM crops. Does he agree that it is vital to implement a proper compensation scheme to cover possible damage to crops grown by non-GM farmers?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That was one of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission's recommendations and we accept it. We have made it clear that we intend to consult on the shape of a compensation scheme. I understand that a further question has been tabled on that point, which will give an opportunity to go into the matter in more detail.