MPs warn against 'irresponsible' GM decision

e-politix, 5 March 2004 

A cross-party committee of Members of Parliament has warned 
the government not to give an immediate green light to the 
planting of GM crops in the UK.

Reports have suggested that environment secretary Margaret 
Beckett will next week give permission for the commercial 
production of a GM product named Chardon LL (Liberty Link).

But the Commons environmental audit select committee said 
that there were flaws in the government's GM trials.

The report said that a trial of GMHT forage maize was 
"unsatisfactory, indeed invalid" because of the pesticide 
used on the crops.

"We are very concerned about possible contamination by 
gene-flow and pollen spread of non-GM crops and insist 
that the issue of liability be settled before any GM 
crops are allowed to be commercially grown in the UK," 
it added.

The MPs said the UK should wait until further evaluations 
have been made of the experience of GM crops in North 
America.

The committee added: "The scope of the trials was very 
narrow and the results cannot be regarded as adequate 
grounds for a decision to be taken in favour of 
commercialisation."

"It would be irresponsible of the government to permit 
the commercialisation of GM crops on the basis of one 
narrow component of the entire evaluation of GM technology.  

"This would be the case even were there no significant 
doubts as to the robustness, validity and relevance of 
the FSE results."

Committee chairman Peter Ainsworth said that a government 
green light for commercial GM crop planting would be 
"irresponsible in the light of the evidence available 
from the trials".

"No substantive ministerial announcements should be made 
until the government has formally responded to the issues 
raised in this report. I am writing to the secretary of 
state today to emphasise this point," he added.

Serious concerns

Shadow agriculture secretary John Whittingdale said the 
report raised "serious concerns about the validity of 
the GM crop trials".

"The government must address the real concerns raised by 
this report before any further decision is announced 
about commercial planting," he added.

"Until the consumer can be satisfied that the production 
of GM crops is based on sound and thorough research and 
that a clear framework which tackles liability, 
contamination and separation is in place, no approvals for 
commercial plantings should be given."

Liberal Democrat spokesman Andrew George said the report 
had "blown out of the water" the government's case for 
allowing the planting of GM crops.

"It would be foolish to decide to grow GM maize in the 
UK following such strong cross-party criticism. Decisions 
should be based on 'sound' science not the 'make do' 
evidence available at present," he said.

"Growing GM crops in Britain won't help the developing 
world, we could leave future generations with an unwelcome 
legacy and above all people simply don't want the stuff."



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