Environmental Audit Committee

5 May 2004 Government GM response

5 May 2004 Government GM response

"wilful or careless misinterpretation"

The Environmental Audit Committee published its Second Report of Session 2003-04, GM Foods - Evaluating the Farm Scale Trials, on Friday 5 March this year, a few days before the statement was made to the House on GM crops by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP on 9 March.    The Committee received the Government response to this report on Wednesday 28 April.  In the light of the debate on GM crops scheduled for today, the Committee decided to respond quickly to the Government response.  

The Committee today publishes its Fifth Report of Session 2003-04, GM Foods - Evaluating the Farm Scale Trials: the Government Response.   The Government response is printed as an Annex to the Report. 

The Committee's principal views are as follows:

" We are very disappointed by the tone and content of the Government response.  The Government claims to have given careful consideration to all available evidence.  The few days between the publication of our Report and its statement on GM crops can simply not have allowed for careful consideration of the substantial amount of evidence contained within that Report and accompanying it." (para 2)

" The Government response is clearly unsatisfactory.  It fails to reply to the substance of some arguments even while misinterpreting others." (para 3) The response contains a number of "either wilful or careless misinterpretations" of the Committee's Report.

" The Government response tries to take us to task for its failure to take oral evidence from the research consortium engaged in the farm scale evaluations, a failure it regards as a "serious weakness".  Yet it makes clear that it was the job of the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), not the research consortium, to ensure that the design of the trials - with which we took greatest issue - was appropriate.  We of course did take evidence from the Chairman of the SSC." (para 4)

" The Government response also fails to address the point that the farm scale evaluations reflected not only a narrow part of the assessment required under Directive 2001/18/EC but an even narrower part of the totality of the Government's consultation." (para 5)

" The Government response does not address the issue of liability." (para 6)

" We intend to return to the issue of GM crops later in the year when we will look at the issues raised by the Government response in more detail, and at the ever-growing body of evidence about the impact of GM crops on the environment…The public at large are very concerned about issues relating to GM and will regard the Government's failure to engage in a proper debate with the Committee on this matter as a sign of weakness." (para 8)

Notes for Editors

The Committee published it Report, GM Food - Evaluating the Farm Scale Trials , on 5th  March 2004.  The Committee publishes a Report on the Government response to that Report today, 5th May.  The Government response is attached as an appendix to the Report.  Details of all the Committee's press releases and inquiries, together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's Internet home page