Agriculture: Genetically Modified Crops

House of Lords written question – answered on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many trials of genetically modified crops were undertaken in England in each year from 2002 to 2009; how many were completed; and what evaluations were carried out on them.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) , Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (and Deputy Chief Whip)

The information requested on the number of genetically modified (GM) crop trials planted and completed front 2002 is given below:

Year No. of trials planted No. of trials completed
2002 109 95
2003 8 5
2004 1 1
2005 0 0
2006 0 0
2007 1 1
2008 2 1
2009 1 1

Of the trials planted in 2002, 87 were for the government-sponsored Farm Scale Evaluations research project. This studied the impact on farmland biodiversity of the novel herbicide use associated with GM herbicide-tolerant maize, beet and oilseed rape. The results showed that the herbicide regimes applied in the trials for the GM beet and oilseed rape crops had a negative effect on wildlife compared to the herbicide regimes for the equivalent conventional crops, whereas the results for the GM maize were better than those for its non-GM counterpart.

Nine of the trials planted in 2002 and one of those planted in 2003 were conducted as part of the national list process for the marketing of new seed varieties. Under this statutory process, overseen in England by the Food and Environment Research Agency, varieties are trialled to assess whether they are distinct, uniform and stable, and whether they are an improvement over existing varieties. Only those that meet the required criteria are entered on the national list of approved varieties. As most of the GM-related national list trials in 2002 and 2003 were not completed, no evaluation was made of the outcome.

All of the other trials planted from 2002 to 2009 were undertaken by companies or academic research institutes for their own purposes. Defra has not evaluated the results of these trials. As the regulatory authority, Defra's role was to ensure that these trials were conducted in accordance with the relevant statutory conditions, and formal inspection visits were made for this purpose.

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