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Lords Committee inquiry to look at funding, the biotech environment in the UK and public perceptions of GM insect techniologies

A new Lords inquiry into the possible uses of GM insect technologies will next week hold its first evidence session, hearing from experts in the fields of biotechnology, science policy as well as public dialogue on scientific issues.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is exploring the potential of GM insect technologies, hoping to probe this developing field of scientific research.

It will begin taking oral evidence next Tuesday, 13 October, exploring the role that funding and the biotech landscape play in enabling research, development and commercialisation of GM insect technologies. The Committee will then move on to investigate public perceptions of this area of science and whether lingering apprehension over GM crops will cast a shadow over this field of study. The Committee will also probe the role that public engagement and responsible innovation approaches can play.

In the first evidence session, at 10.40am, the Committee will put questions to Dr Paul Burrows, Executive Director, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); Professor Tim Dafforn, Chief Scientific Advisor, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; and Ian Meikle, Head of Agriculture and Food, Innovate UK.

Questions the witnesses are likely to face include:

  • How is research and development of GM insect technologies in the UK currently funded?
  • How does the landscape for biotech companies compare between the UK and the USA?
  • How can a balance between regulation and innovation be struck?
  • Do we risk stifling entrepreneurial innovation by over-regulation of GM insect technologies?

In the second session of questioning, at 11.40am, the Committee will focus on public perception of GM insects and public engagement strategies, and will hear from Sir Roland Jackson, Executive Chair, Sciencewise; Professor Sue Hartley, President Elect, British Ecological Society; and Dr Sarah Hartley, University of Nottingham.

Questions which this part of the evidence session will cover could include:

  • To what extent is the public aware of, or concerned about, the use of GM insect technologies?
  • Are public concerns likely to be shaped by experiences with GM crops?
  • Should public engagement serve to inform the public about decisions, or should it be a way to input the public's views into decision making?

The Committee evidence sessions will take place at 10.40am and 11.40am in Committee Room 4A in the House of Lords, on Tuesday 13 October.

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