COMMONS

GM foods and application of the precautionary principle in Europe: Terms of reference

14 February 2014

European regulations restricting the growth of genetically modified (GM) foods in the UK and across the continent are to be scrutinised in a new cross-party parliamentary inquiry launched today by MPs on the Science and Technology Committee.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) believes that GM is one of several technologies necessary to foster a “vibrant sector” in UK agriculture. But the European Union’s application of the ‘precautionary principle’ has been criticized for holding back development of the technology, despite European Commission reports finding no scientific evidence associating GM organisms with higher risks for the environment or food and feed safety.

Launching the inquiry, Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:

"GM technology potentially offers an array of benefits, but concerns are being expressed that it is being held back by misuse of the precautionary principle.

"In this inquiry we will be looking at whether such restrictions are hampering UK scientific competitiveness and whether they are still appropriate in light of the available evidence on the safety of GM."

Terms of reference

The Committee is calling for written evidence on the following matters:

  1. Are current EU and UK regulations intended to assess the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods fit for purpose? If not, why not?
  2. How have EU and UK regulations on GM foods affected the UK’s international competitiveness?
  3. Does the current EU and UK regulatory framework allow for GM foods to effectively contribute to the delivery of the UK Agricultural Technologies Strategy? If not, why not?
  4. What are the particular barriers to the conduct of research on GM foods in the UK?
  5. Is the EU’s application of the precautionary principle in relation to GM foods appropriate?  Does the EU recognise and handle properly the concepts of hazard and risk?
  6. Are there other examples of EU regulation in which the precautionary principle has not been applied appropriately?

Submitting written evidence

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act. We may also ask you to comment on the process of submitting evidence via the web portal so that we can look to make improvements. If you have any queries or concerns about the collection and use of this information or do not wish your details to be used for the purpose of collecting feedback, please email the Committee at  providing your full name, address, and if relevant your organisation.

The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by midday on Wednesday 23 April 2014.

Each submission should:

  1. be no more than 3,000 words in length
  2. be in Word format with as little use logos as possible 
  3. have numbered paragraphs
  4. include a declaration of interests.

If you need to send a paper copy please send it to:

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
14 Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9NB

Please note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised. 
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence. 
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

Further information

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