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Animal Welfare

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many prosecutions have been recorded in respect of offences concerning cruelty to animals in each of the last five years. [4170]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 July 2001]: I replied to the hon. Member by letter on 6 August 2001, and placed a copy of my letter in the Library.

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Mr. Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many animals were killed under licences issued by her Department, broken down by species, in each of the last three years. [5901]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 20 July 2001]: No such licences have been issued in the last three years to kill any wild animals (as defined in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981).

Genetically Modified Organisms

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many batches of seed have been (a) recalled and (b) stopped from growing this year because of the presence of unauthorised GMOs. [3753]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 16 July 2001]: During 2001, no seed sold to farmers has been recalled or stopped from growing due to the presence of unauthorised GMOs. There have been seven occasions when small-scale variety trails have been halted in England. In three cases the trials were not sown and in four cases the trial plots were destroyed because of suspected GMO presence. In five out of the seven cases the suspected GMO presence proved to be negative.

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research is being carried out on soil ecology at the farm scale evaluations of GM crops. [4470]

Mr. Meacher: The Farm Scale Evaluations are an ecological experiment specifically designed to study the effects of the weed control regimes associated with four genetically modified herbicide tolerant (GMHT) crops on farmland food-webs and in particular the food resources available for farmland birds. The experiment is based on the ecology (that is, interaction of living organisms with each other and their environment) of the soil weed-seed bank and a number of selected invertebrate indicator species that feed on farmland weeds or animals living on the weeds. The study includes a direct investigation of the effects of the herbicide management systems associated with the GMHT crops on soil-dwelling invertebrates such as spiders, beetles and Collembola, and indirect investigation of the effects on the activity of some species of earthworms.

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's policy is on a threshold for the presence of authorised GM varieties. [4467]

Mr. Morley: The EU Commission has issued a revised working document on adventitious presence of GM seed in seed of conventional varieties, taking into account the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Plants. This proposes the introduction of the following thresholds for the adventitious presence of authorised GMs:

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Genetically modified seeds having not received an authorisation under Part C of Directive 90/220/EEC now replaced by Directive 2001/18/EC should not be present in a seed lot. Directive 2001/18/EC does not foresee the establishment of thresholds for presence of unauthorised genetically modified organisms.

However, it is the intention to amend Directive 2001/18/EEC to provide for the possibility of establishing thresholds for technically unavoidable or adventitious presence of minute amounts of genetically modified organisms as or in products not authorised in accordance with Community legislation provided that certain conditions are fulfilled. The annexes of the seed Directive will have to be changed accordingly once the amendment of Directive 2001/18/EC enters into force.

The Government are consulting the main stakeholder organisations on the EU Commission's revised working document. When these consultations are concluded, the Government will form a view on its policy on thresholds.

Meanwhile, I am placing a copy of the Commission's working document (dated 25 May 2001) in the Library of the House.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will list the parish and community consultations to be held ahead of the autumn-sown farm scale trials of GM crops; [5659]

Mr. Meacher: The Department wrote on 23 July to all relevant parish, district and county councils in England with copies of the consents for the GM crops involved, information about the Farm Scale Evaluations and details of the proposed locations of the 26 trials. I wrote to all English constituency MPs with the locations and background information on the evaluations. We have offered that DEFRA officials will be available, whenever possible, to attend public meetings to discuss the evaluations if called by a parish council.

We have received three recent invitations for officials to attend public meetings in Hemswell Cliff in Lincolnshire, Driffield in East Yorkshire and Long Marston in Warwickshire. The first of these meetings was held on 6 September. The other two meetings are to be held in October.

We have received seven representations from local parish members specifically about the autumn sites but none from local farmers. We have responded to the specific concerns raised, which were mostly about the use of the herbicide Glufosinate Ammonium by providing further information to the correspondents.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the contracts her Department has with the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in respect of GM (a) crops and (b) foods. [5661]

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Mr. Meacher: The Department has contracts with NIAB for the provision of technical services undertaking statutory testing for Plant Breeders Rights, National Listing and Seed Certification and for a desk study to review methods for sampling seed lots to determine the presence of GM material.

NIAB is one of the partners in a research consortium undertaking the Bright project (Botanical and Rotational Implications of GM Herbicide Tolerance). DEFRA provides half the funding for this project.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the public inquiry will be reconvened into the proposed inclusion of Chardon LL genetically modified fodder maize on to the National Seed List. [5662]

Mr. Meacher: The Hearing into the proposed addition of Chardon LL to the United Kingdom National List was adjourned in November 2000 when we learned that French testing system used to produce the Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability report did not appear to be fully compliant with the requirements of Directive 72/180/EEC.

Despite a number of letters, we have yet to receive a substantive response from the Commission to our inquiries on the status of the French testing system. However, I understand that the French Authorities have re-sown Chardon LL in official tests this year and that a new test report will be submitted to my officials this autumn.

In addition, the Commission has indicated that it proposes to update the provisions of the 1972 Directive to reflect best current scientific practice.

If we receive appropriate assurances from the Commission before the end of the year, we would hope to reconvene the Hearing early in 2002.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contacts her Department has had with the European Commission since October 2000, in respect of proposed listing of the GM fodder maize, Chardon LL; and if she will place copies of the correspondence in the Library. [5663]

Mr. Meacher: Officials wrote to the European Commission on 22 November 2000 when it became clear that there were doubts about the French testing system for maize. My right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Hayman wrote to Commissioner Byrne on 20 December 2000 and received a holding response on 23 February. No substantive response has been received to date. Copies of the correspondence have been placed in the Library of the House.

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in establishing a compensation scheme for those affected adversely by the growing of GM crops. [5551]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 July 2001]: Liability for any loss that might arise as a result of the use of GM crops is an important issue, which is being addressed at both European and UK levels. The European Commission issued a working paper in late July with proposals for an environmental liability regime to cover a range of activities, including for GMOs. We are considering these proposals, which cover damage to biodiversity and

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damage that creates serious harm to human health. Given the support expressed at last December's Environment Council by member states to the principle of a directive in this area and to the idea of including GMOs, it is likely that GMOs, and therefore the cultivation of GM crops, will be covered by any new directive.

I am also considering the issue of any domestic liability provisions for GM crops that might be needed in the light of the Commission's wider proposals. I am not in a position to provide any further detail at present.

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many acres of land are set aside for farm scale evaluations of GM crops in (a) Pembrokeshire, (b) Wales and (c) the United Kingdom. [5552]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 July 2001]: The information is as follows:

(a) There have been no Farm Scale Evaluations of GM crops in Pembrokeshire during the course of the research programme so far.

(b) There was one Farm Scale Evaluation site in Wales in 2000 and another in 2001. Both of these were at Sealand, Flintshire and the GM crops covered an area of 8.5 acres (3.5 ha) in total.

(c) The number of Farm Scale Evaluation sites in the United Kingdom and the area of GM crops involved (including (b)), are as shown for 2000 and 2001 together with those expected for 2002.

Number of sitesArea (acres)Area (hectares)
2000 and 20011752,433985
Estimated for 20021031,354548
Estimated total2783,7871,533

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers she has to intervene when disposal guidelines are not adhered to in relation to land used in farm scale evaluations of GM crops. [5549]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 July 2001]: The powers to intervene on disposal arrangements for the GM crops in the farm-scale evaluations depend on the approval status of the GM crop concerned.

The GM rape and beet in the evaluations are being grown in England under research (Part B) consents issued by this Department. The consents specify the disposal arrangements. The GM Inspectorate act on behalf of the Secretary of State to monitor compliance with these conditions. They have powers to require applicants to comply and to take remedial action to safeguard human health and the environment if necessary. There are also powers to prosecute where it seems an offence has occurred.

The GM maize in the evaluations has a Europe-wide approval for cultivation under Directive 90/220; this does not impose any conditions on the growing or disposal of the crop. Under the farm-scale evaluations agreement, SCIMAC, the industry body, has responsibility for the disposal of the GM crops in the evaluations and to ensure

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they are not used as fodder for animals. At harvest the maize plants are removed from the site and then either taken to landfill or chopped up and incorporated into the soil away from the trial site.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if the Government have implemented the recommendation from the Working Group on the Application of Genetics in Fisheries and Mariculture at its meeting in Cork in 1998 concerning risk assessment protocols that distinguish between the impacts of polyploid and transgenic organisms; and if he will place a copy of that document in the Library; [6638]

Mr. Meacher: The recommendation referred to is met through implementation of European Union Directive 90/220. This stipulates that genetically modified organisms, including transgenic fish, cannot be released unless a detailed risk assessment confirms there will be no unacceptable effects on human health or the environment.

The report of the relevant Working Group has been made available in the Libraries of the House. The current UK members of this group are:

A genetically modified or transgenic fish may also be a polyploid organism, but not necessarily so. Further background on the risk assessment of GM fish is given in the booklet entitled "Guidance for Experimental Releases of Genetically Modified Fish" (DETR/ACRE Guidance Note 8, February 1997). This is also available in the Libraries of the House.

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the timetable for implementing EU Directive 2001/18 into UK law. [4473]

Mr. Meacher: Member states are required to transpose Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment into national law by 17 October 2002. The Department has launched a consultation with stakeholders on the issues and principles raised by the new Directive. We will then hold a further round of consultations on implementing legislation in the first half of 2002 with a view to ensuring transposition by the required date.

The Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales and the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland will be conducting separate consultations for their areas on the implementation issues for which they have devolved powers.

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