27 June 2000
Chairman defends new GM committee

by Isabel Davies

THE chairman of a new independent body set up to advise the government about GM technology has denied that the new group is too big to work together.

Professor Malcolm Grant told the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee that with 20 members the group was large.

But he said he was sure it would bring some much-needed rationality to the GM debate when it meets for the first time in Cambridge next week.

Prof Grant told the select committee that the quality of information available so far in the debate about GM technology had been varied.

There has been a struggle by government and advisory committees to put an objective view into the public arena but so far without a great deal of success.

The Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Committee will advise ministers on any GM issues that have an impact on farming and the environment.

Prof Grant rejected accusations that the committee was set up too late: The sun has not yet started to dawn on biotechnology and the potential for science.

The committee, which will report to the Cabinet Minister Mo Mowlam, will also look at the ethical and acceptability issues surrounding GM technology.

Its remit will be to look at all issues which do not fall to either the Food Standards Agency or the Human Genetics Commission.

Dr Mowlam has already written to the committee to ask them to look into the issue of public acceptance of seed purity.

Prof Grants deputy is Julie Hill, programme advisor of Green Alliance.

The 18 other committee members include organic farmer and commissioner with the Meat and Livestock Commission, Helen Browning OBE.

Dr David Carmichael, National Farmers Union representative on the Supply Chain Initiative for Modified Arable Crops (SCIMAC) is also on the committee.

Other members include English Nature former chief executive Dr Derek Langslow and farmer Judith Hann, who presented Tomorrows World.