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Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 1, line 22, at end insert--
("( ) The Secretary of State shall, after the granting of any consent pursuant to subsection (8A), ensure that there is for the first twenty years after the first release of a genetically modified organism, monitoring of the area in which such crops are planted, at frequent and adequate intervals by his Department or by a Government Agency designated by him for that purpose, in either case in co-operation with such expert bodies as are concerned with the preservation of animals, birds, flora, insects and the natural environment that he considers appropriate.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 6A:


Page 1, line 22, at end insert--
("(8G) The Secretary of State shall not authorise the release of genetically modified organisms for the research purposes cited in subsection (8A) until--
(a) he has stipulated minimum requirements for each research programme, which shall include criteria by which it can be judged to have been completed,
(b) he has stipulated an expiry date for each authorisation, after which he may either extend the expiry date or order the termination of the research programme, with only a completed research programme providing grounds, for a decision to authorise commercial release,
(c) a survey has been conducted over the area in which the genetically modified organisms are to be released, in order to gather ecological baseline data that pertain to the site prior to release,
(d) he has stipulated a schedule for the full disclosure of the results of the research to each House of Parliament and before such members of the public that have an interest,
(e) he has stipulated conditions for the disposal of crop material that may be produced during the research programme, such conditions specifically excluding the

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sale of the crop material, its consumption by humans, its use as an animal feedstuff or its use in any production and manufacturing process unless and until the research programme results in an authorisation for commercial release,
(f) he has stipulated other procedures for the termination of a research programme, and
(g) he has laid before both Houses of Parliament a report setting out the stipulations he is required to make under this subsection.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 6B:


Page 1, line 22, at end insert--
("(8B) Any research into environmental impact required by the provisions of subsection (8A) shall encompass the below ground soil environment of the sites under investigation.")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment applies to all research programmes required under the provisions of this Bill, whether at testing stage prior to the authorisation of commercial release or for the on-going monitoring of GM crops following commercial release.

Current research into the effects of GM crops is typically concerned with the above-ground environment of the test site. While research of this kind is essential and has brought to light such disturbing findings as the effect of GM maize pollen on Monarch butterflies, it is to be remembered that a significant part of almost any GM crop lies underground. Recent research in Germany has shown how DNA from GM sugar beets can persist in the soil for up to two years and can be transferred into soil bacteria. Such phenomena have potentially serious implications for the agricultural land which relies heavily on the balanced activity of soil micro-organisms to maintain the soil fertility.

I accept that that is just one study, but it underlines how little we know about the below-ground effects of GM crops. It is essential that all required research programmes test for these effects. "Out of sight, out of mind" is not an option. I beg to move.

Lord Carter: Should it be required in order to judge whether a release can be carried out safely, the Secretary of State already has powers to require this information. It is unnecessary and inappropriate to include such provisions in primary legislation.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: The noble Lord has introduced a new word. Previously it was "unnecessary"; now it is also "inappropriate". Nevertheless, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 1, line 22, at end insert--
("(8B) It shall not be a defence to any claim for compensation or damages by the owner of any land which may have been affected by any genetically modified organism which is a plant or seed that the planting or cultivation of any crop shall have been consented to by the Secretary of State pursuant to this Act.")

The noble Earl said: This amendment is designed to make absolutely clear that it will not be a defence in the case of damage to rely on a consent granted by the

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Secretary of State. The noble Lord the Chief Whip will have been brought up on the ruling by Mr Justice Blackburn in 1868. He will remember it as well as I do. For the benefit of other Members of the Committee, Mr Justice Blackburn said:


    "Any person who for his own purposes brings onto his land and collects and keeps there anything which is liable to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it at his peril and ... is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape". The noble Lord the Chief Whip will have implemented that ruling when he was a farming adviser, just as I have done. It is right that this provision should be on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: I support my noble friend's amendment. Perhaps I may draw the noble Lord's attention to the debate in February in the other place on genetically modified foods. In that debate, Mr Rooker stated that civil liability for damage caused by genetically modified organisms is governed by common law developed in the courts. On the basis of common law principles, the firm holding the market consent for a GM crop can be held liable in law for any damages arising from ill-effects attributed to that crop. That was also made clear before the scrutiny committee in this House. I am sure that the Chief Whip will confirm that.

Lord Carter: It was like old times hearing the reference to the Blackburn judgment. This is a complicated area. I have already touched on it in replying to a question from the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, regarding directive 90/220. I should have said that when I write to the noble Baroness I will place a copy of the letter in the Library.

The Government are mindful of concerns about biotechnology and the calls for secure liability measures. That was emphasised in the response from my honourable friend Mr Jeff Rooker which was cited. While the European Parliament, in its opinion on the Commission's proposal to revise directive 90/220, called for the establishment of a liability regime to cover the release and marketing of GMOs, that was not accepted by the Commission in view of its intention to publish a comprehensive White Paper on environmental liability which is likely to cover damage arising from GMOs.

Environment Ministers reached political agreement on the revision of directive 90/220 at the June Council. Noting the delays in the preparation of the Commission paper on environmental liability, at the Council the UK supported the inclusion of a recital recalling that member states may put into place appropriate liability measures at national level. In addition, the UK submitted a minutes statement calling on the Commission, as a matter of priority, to consider, outside the framework of directive 90/220, the feasibility of and possible criteria for a liability regime or regimes to cover the release and marketing of GMOs.

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I believe I am right in thinking that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, intends to accept this amendment, which I suspect is probably correct in the terms of her Bill.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I am grateful for the Minister's support for my noble friend's amendment. I am grateful to my noble friend for bringing forward the amendment, which, if it is the will of the Committee, I accept.

The Earl of Caithness: Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord the Chief Whip when he expects the Commission to start to produce some sensible paperwork on the White Paper?

Lord Carter: I do not have that information in front of me. I will write to the noble Earl.

The Earl of Caithness: I am most grateful. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

1.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 8:


Page 1, line 25, at end insert--
("(6) In section 113 of that Act (fees and charges), after subsection (3) insert--
"(3A) All costs incurred by the Secretary of State in implementing the provisions of section 111(8A) above shall be offset by means of a fee, payable by the licensee, for the granting of licenses for the commercial release of genetically modified crops, which shall include fees for such research programmes as are required for the application for commercial release authorisations."").

The noble Baroness said: In principle, a minimum of government regulation is always to be preferred. However, there are circumstances in which the state must act robustly to protect the interests of the country, its people and the environment. Few would begrudge the large sums devoted to the prevention of nuclear contamination, even if they begrudge the existence of the potential source of that contamination.

The consequences of genetic contamination from GM crops are potentially as serious as those of nuclear contamination. Indeed, it could be argued that they are even more serious, as even plutonium has a half life, while DNA has a life all of its own and is able to propagate itself indefinitely. I therefore believe that it is incumbent on government to set up the systems required to reduce the risk of a genetic disaster to as close to zero as can reasonably be expected.

Inevitably, such systems will be both comprehensive and complex. They will therefore be costly. The question is: who should ultimately bear that cost? To return to the example of nuclear power, it is the nuclear industry that pays to safeguard the public from the dangers of its product. Of course, the situation with GM crops is very different, not least because production is largely in private hands and the product is distributed

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among many more producers. Yet the basic principle is the same. Those who introduce risk into a system should pay the price of reducing that risk to acceptable levels.

The amendment proposes that the Government's costs--that is, the costs that would otherwise be borne by the taxpayer--should be recovered by the GM producer in the form of licence fees charged upon the authorisation of crop releases for research or commercial purposes. How licensees wish to pass on those costs is a matter for them to decide. Their costs may even be reflected in the price of their products. However, as long as the supply of GM-free products is guaranteed, the individual need not have to pay the price of GM safety, whether as a taxpayer or as a consumer. I beg to move.


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