Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

SESSION 2002-03
20 November 2003 REPORT PUBLISHED ON THE CONDUCT OF

20 November 2003 REPORT PUBLISHED ON THE CONDUCT OF
THE GM PUBLIC DEBATE

Today, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published a report about the conduct of the public debate about genetic modification and GM crops, GM Nation?, which was held during the Summer.  The report

  • says that although the public debate was imaginative and innovative, and was modestly successful in some areas, overall it was an opportunity missed

  • notes that a debate is distinguished from an opinion poll because it educates and informs as well as samples views, but that the GM public debate did not do so, in part because the information which was meant to underpin it - the Strategy Unit's economic review, the GM Science Review Panel report, and the outcome of the farm-scale evaluations - was not released until late in the process or afterwards, and because the debate did not engage people beyond a self-selecting group which already held views about GM. Thus the wider public was in the main not informed by the debate, and nor were their opinions canvassed

  • says that the principal blame lies with two decisions made by Government - the insufficient resources it allocated to the debate, and the absurdly tight deadline set for its conclusion - which affected the conduct of the debate, particularly the publicity it was able to obtain and what information was available to it. The report asks that the Government explains those decisions

  • finally, the report asks what lessons the Government has learnt from the GM public debate. Other public debates and consultations are planned: they need to be more successful

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Report follows an inquiry conducted in October 2003.  The inquiry was announced in our Press Notice of 17 July 2003 (which is available on our website).

The Committee received written evidence from a number of interested parties. It took oral evidence from the Chair of the Public Debate Steering Board, Professor Malcolm Grant, and from the Minister for Environment and Agri-Environment, Elliot Morley MP. 

The full report will be available on our website from around 3.30 pm on 20 November.

Website: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environment__food_and_rural_affairs.cfm