22 January 1999

GM crops get thumbs-up in Lords report

A HOUSE of Lords select committee report has come out in favour of genetic modification in agriculture concluding that the potential benefits far outweigh the risks, providing that there is a proper regulatory framework in place.

According to the report published yesterday (Thur), there is no reason to doubt the safety of GM food that has been approved by regulatory bodies and that an outright ban on the growing of GM crops would be inappropriate.

But it recommends that a new committee should be set up to take an overview of genetic modification in agriculture, particularly with regard to environmental issues.

On labelling, the Lords recommend that food containing above an established threshold of GM crops, perhaps 2%, should be labelled to aid consumer choice.

But changes to the EUs regulatory framework would speed up decisions and improve the approvals process, said the report. Individual member states should have the right to opt out of growing certain crops.

Biotech firm Monsanto welcomed the reports conclusions and said that exhaustive investigation had helped the House of Lords "distinguish fact from science fiction."

But it has been greeted with caution by Lib-Dem food spokesman Paul Tyler who said: "We still do not know the risk involved with this new technology and therefore government must apply the precautionary principle."