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Licence for GM maize would be outrageous - George

December 8, 2003 12:00 AM

The agreed five-year moratorium on GMs in the EU could be ended today by a European Standing Committee, if they grant a licence for the import of GM sweetcorn.

Commenting ahead of the committee, Andrew George MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, said:

"For the UK to be represented at this committee by a quango demonstrates what little heed the Government pays to the views of the public.

"The Government said it would listen to public opinion on GMs but a decision to end the moratorium today would show that the GM nation debate was just a fig leaf.

"Consumers don't want it, supermarkets won't stock it and much more research is needed before we can consider going down the GM route.

"It would be outrageous for the Government to ignore public opinion and gaps in scientific evidence and steamroller us into accepting GMs.

"A decision to licence Bt 11 maize is likely to be the first of many. Given that the US has been pressing for the moratorium to be lifted, many will be suspicious that a deal has been done over steel tariffs and GMs."

Notes:

1. The EC Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health will meet later today and could grant an import licence for Bt 11 sweet maize for food to biotech giant Syngenta. If the licence is granted it would effectively end the EU moratorium on GM products even though new rules on traceability and labelling do not come into force until April 2004.

2. The UK Government is represented on the committee by the Food Standards Agency. The committee postponed a vote on 10th November 2003

3. Andrew George tabled a written Parliamentary Question in November to find out what evidence the Government would be giving to today's committee but was only told the details of the meeting:

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice her Department will offer to the forthcoming EU Regulatory Committee on the application for the sale of Bt 11 GM corn. [140716]

Mr. Morley: Bt 11 GM maize is already available for sale in the EU, including the UK, under a consent granted by the UK in 1998. The scope of this consent was limited to import of grain and processing for animal feed and other non-food uses. The company that owns Bt 11 GM maize has made a further application forconsent for commercial cultivation in the EU and this is currently being considered under EU Directive 2001/18. No date has yet been set for collective EU discussion and decision making on this application in the relevant EU regulatory committee. If such a date is set in the future, my Department will lead in developing a UK line, taking due account of scientific evidence. An application for use of Bt 11 GM maize in food is also being considered under EC Novel Foods Regulation 258/97. The Food Standards Agency is the UK

competent authority and will represent the UK Government at the EC Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health meeting on 8 December 2003 when the application is due to be discussed. (Hansard, 2 Dec 2003 : Column 28W)