22 October 1998
Government demands checks on GM crops

THE Government has set up a cabinet committee to oversee the development of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The Ministerial Group on Biotechnology and Genetic Modification will be chaired by Jack Cunningham, dubbed the Cabinet “enforcer”.

The move came as Environment Minister Michael Meacher confirmed to Parliament that much tougher checks would be carried out on GM products under a voluntary agreement with the industry.

Mr Meacher told a Lords select committee that no insect-resistant crops will be introduced to the UK for three years and pledged to provide more information about developments.

He also said that the Governments aim was to strike the right balance between protecting the environment and human health on one hand, and on the other maintaining the proper degree of certainty needed by business for the development of new products.

He said: “I think it is right to be cautious at this relatively early stage of the use of the technology in the environment and to make sure that for every product we have practical evidence on safety before we take a decision to move to commercialisation”.

He said the process would be underpinned by strict guidelines for best practice in using GM crops.

Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth, claimed the new arrangements did not go far enough and the voluntary framework proved that the Government had buckled under pressure from the GM foods industry.