GM planting must wait – EFRA

THE GOVERNMENT must not allow commercial GM planting until clear contamination thresholds for non-GM crops have been set, a cross-Party group of MPs has said.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee also said liability issues had to be addressed and put in place before any planting began.

In its report on the practical and legal arrangements required for GM crop planting, the committee added that there was “huge confusion” in the government‘s and EU‘s position on GM crops.

EFRA urged the government to decide who should accept liability and fund compensation, and by which mechanisms compensation should be paid.

“The mechanism must centre on a principle that economic liability should extend to the level of proven economic losses suffered by non-GM farmers from admixture or contamination,” the report said.

The MPs also called on the government to consider the issues of potential environmental damage and liability and include these in its GM consultation – launched later this month.

On threshold levels for permissible GM admixture in non-GM crops, EFRA recommended different levels should be set for different crops.

EFRA disagreed with the Supply Chain Initiative for Modified Agricultural Crops which reckoned threshold levels need not be set lower for organic farming than the 0.9% for conventional crops.

The report said that the planting regime for GM crops should respect the legal requirement that organic crops suffer zero contamination, which in effect meant a threshold of 0.1%.

The EFRA report also called for government guidelines on separation distances between GM and non-GM crops to be regularly and independently audited and reviewed.

Any audit regime, the MPs argued, must carry the confidence of the organic farming movement in the UK.

Another issue considered in the inquiry was that of GM-free zones.

Several English regions have declared themselves GM-free, but these are voluntary arrangements, since mandatory GM-free zones are not consistent with EU legislation.

But the select committee indicated that it would like to see the government considering a proposal to change EU law on this point.

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