1 November 1996

Genetic guidelines talks

TALKS are taking place between the NFU and plant breeders to develop a code of practice on the use of genetically-modified crops.

Stuart Thomson, secretary of the NFUs biotechnology working party, said the code would provide producers with a clear set of guidelines, covering labelling and segregation of crops grown from modified and conventional seed.

US producers, who have begun harvesting modified soya beans approved for import into Europe, are not required to segregate crops grown from modified seed and conventional seed. But Mr Thomson said UK growers should be able to segregate to ensure consumer choice is maintained.

Although the NFU accepted that there may be no difference in the end-product produced from modified crops it also supported consumer choice through labelling.

Roger Turner, chief executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders, said ongoing talks had been taking place with the NFU since the beginning of the year.

The BSPB had produced a paper stating that breeders would label modified seed, and ensure information was provided to meet consumer needs.

On segregation he said breeders would treat the issue on a crop-by-crop basis and any decision would depend on the views of the market.

But the BSPB recognised that producers were only one part of the food chain and further discussions would take place involving the NFU, the Institute of Grocery Distribution, the British Agrochemicals Association and the National Association of British and Irish Millers.