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19 Nov 2003 : Column 889Wcontinued
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what provisions there will be for farmers to deliver their own casualty animals to the collection point under the new Fallen Stock Scheme. 
Mr. Bradshaw: There will be no need for farmers to deliver their own casualty animals to collection points under the Scheme. The subscription fee paid by farmers which join the Scheme covers collection and disposal of fallen stock from farm premises. If farmers nevertheless wish to use their own vehicles to transport carcases to approved collection centres their vehicles will need to comply with the Animal By-products Regulations 2003 and they will need to establish with the approved collection centre that they are prepared to accept carcases which are so delivered.
Mr. Bradshaw: Progress is being made drawing up the detailed requirements for collection of carcases and the other conditions of the Scheme. These will be made widely available shortly for collection and disposal operators who wish to provide services to the Scheme.
Mr. Bradshaw: The Animal By-products Regulations 2003 require hunt kennels that collect and treat fallen stock carcases to be approved by Defra as collection centres and premises which only receive treated carcases for feeding to hounds are required to be approved as final users. Appropriately authorised hunt kennels will be eligible to register as collectors and/or disposal agents under the National Fallen Stock Scheme if they wish to do so.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assistance is provided by the Government to young farmers who wish to obtain their own farm holding. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Government recognise the importance of encouraging new entrants into farming. The Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food sets out how industry, Government and consumers must work together to secure profitable and international competitive farming and food industries which are attractive to those already engaged in them and to potential new entrants.
This Department has commissioned research which will seek to identify the existence and nature of any artificial barriers to new entrants, and the potential means by which such barriers might be overcome. We are discussing with interested organisations how to take forward any measures which are found to be necessary.
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funding under the Agriculture Development Scheme to NAFM for the publication of information booklets to help producers develop their knowledge of sales and marketing, and to help NAFM develop its certification programme for accrediting farmers' markets; and
funding under the Rural Enterprise Scheme for the Somerset Farmers' Market Company.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals she will bring forward at (a) national and (b) European level to tackle cetacean by-catch; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: At a national level, the UK has published a strategy for the reduction of small cetacean by-catch, which includes a number of recommendations for action. As part of this strategy, trials to reduce cetacean by-catch have been carried out in the offshore bass fishery. These trials have demonstrated that separator grids are a viable means of minimising dolphin by-catch in this fishery and the Scottish fishermen involved in this fishery have already indicated that they will continue to use the grid on a voluntary basis. I am determined to move forward from trialling the separator grid to deploying the gear in the fishery. However, given that the UK is not the main prosecutor of this fishery, it must be understood that whatever action we might consider by way of requiring the use of separator grids or other mitigation measures, or even closing the fisheries, would need to be implemented at the EU level in order to have significant effect.
The importance of reducing cetacean by-catch has been raised by the UK at ministerial level with the Fisheries Commissioner on a number of occasions and bilaterally with France. In particular, the UK has pressed for the introduction of a observer programme across the EU to broaden the information available about which fisheries, and which vessels, are involved in the problem.
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As part of its action plan to implement the recommendations of the Waste Food Task Force, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has undertaken to consider a number of legal issues with stakeholders. These issues include the offences available to enforcers when taking prosecutions for illegal diversion of unfit meat, the penalties available for such offences, the time limits for investigation of these offences and the issues involved with lack of a power of arrest for food safety offences. The FSA will be discussing these issues with stakeholders at a seminar on 26 November 2003 to discuss the lessons to be learned from the prosecutions in the Denby Poultry Products case.
Judy Mallaber: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps are being taken to improve enforcement of food safety regulations at animal by-products processing premises arising from recent meat fraud cases. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Food safety regulations are the responsibility of the Food Standards Agency. The State Veterinary Service (SVS) visits animal by-products premises for the purposes of administering the animal by-products legislation, which is enforced by local authorities and the Meat Hygiene Service. SVS instructions were amended in light of the fraud cases referred to, with the aim of preventing further such incidents. They improved audit procedures and highlighted the need to liaise more closely with enforcement agencies where there are possible breaches of food hygiene or other legislation. To improve communication and co-operation between the relevant bodies, Defra has also provided joint training on the new Animal By-Products Regulation for all the relevant enforcement bodies.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether estimates of yield for GM maize in the GM farm scale evaluation published by her Department will be based upon maize crops grown using the same herbicide regime as used on these farm scale evaluations. 
Mr. Morley: The Department has not published yield estimates for the GM maize grown in the farm-scale evaluations. The paper by Champion and others 'Crop management and agronomy of the farm-scale evaluations' published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society on 16 October explains that crop yields were not routinely recorded. The GM and conventional maize crops in each field evaluation were assessed and compared at every stage of growth and results were only included in the analysis where these correlates of yield were comparable and consistent with the protocol requiring 'cost effective weed control'.
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Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the public relations companies employed by her Department to present the Government's viewpoint on GM (a) foods and (b) crops; and how much public funding has been allocated for this purpose. 
Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the (a) role and (b) responsibilities of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment in relation to GM (i) crops and (ii) trials. 
Mr. Morley: The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) is the statutory advisory committee established under Section 124 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. ACRE advise Government and the devolved administrations on all aspects of releases of GMOs into the environment, including the release of GM crops for the purposes of marketing or research. ACRE'S full terms of reference are included in their most recent annual report, which is available on the internet at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/annrep9/index.htm.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the effects she estimates the adoption of genetically modified crops in the UK would have on the organic farming industry. 
Mr. Morley: The Government recognises that the growing of GM crops could affect the economic position of organic and conventional farmers growing equivalent crops. This was highlighted in the Strategy Unit report entitled 'Field Work: weighing up the costs and benefits of GM crops', published last July. The issue is also being discussed amongst member states of the European union. The Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission has been analysing the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops and associated liability issues and was due to publish a report last month. When the report is published we will consider it very carefully, taking into account the possible effects on the organic sector.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information she has received about whether the planting of GM crops would lead to a change in the use of (a) pesticides and (b) chemical weed killers. 
Mr. Morley: Almost all of the GM crops that have been grown under trial in the EU in recent years, or are under consideration for commercial growing, are associated with changes in the use of herbicides and/or insecticides. Each GM crop is assessed on its own merits and any application to release must be accompanied by a dossier that includes detailed information on any potential changes in pesticide use and the effects this would have on the environment. The GM crop farm-scale evaluations, conducted in the UK, made a detailed assessment of the impact of herbicide use associated with three types of GM crop. A copy of the results, which were published last month, is in the Library.
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Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of EU labelling and traceability regulations in respect of GM (a) seeds, (b) animal food and (c) food for human consumption. 
The Food Standards Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have commissioned an independent study on the impact of the new GM regulations. This study and information obtained from stakeholders will form the basis of a Regulatory Impact Assessment on the regulations. This will be part of a consultation package, which will be issued at the end of December 2003 and will include the draft domestic implementing regulations and draft guidance to accompany the regulations.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment her Department has made of the application for the sale of GM sweetcorn Bt11; and what advice her Department will offer to forthcoming Council of Ministers meetings on the application. 
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), as the competent authority under the EC Novel Foods Regulation, is advised by the independent Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). The ACNFP assessed the original data submitted in support of the application for the sale of genetically modified sweetcorn Bt11 and the opinion of the Dutch competent authority. The European Commission's Scientific Committee (SCF) for food carried out a further assessment of these data and additional information submitted in support of the application and its opinion was also considered.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with her counterparts in the National Assembly for Wales in respect of their decision to declare Wales a GM-free nation. 
Mr. Morley: I understand from ministerial colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government that their policy is to adopt the most restrictive approach possible on GM crops within the confines of European Union and domestic law. They have made clear that this is not the same as declaring Wales GM-free. Ministers and officials in Defra and the Assembly Government keep in close touch on GM issues and hold regular meetings.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment has been made through (a) research commissioned by her Department, (b) farm scale trials and (c) other research of the potential for GM herbicide tolerant plants to create herbicide tolerant hybrid weeds; and what the results of that research were; 
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Mr. Morley: There has been considerable research investigating hybridisation between GM and non-GM crops, including the crops studied in the Farm Scale Evaluations, and between GM crops and wild relatives. This includes studies commissioned by my Department (e.g. "Monitoring large scale releases of genetically modified crops, incorporating report on project EPG 1/5/30: monitoring releases of genetically modified crop plants" (December 2002)), studies carried out in parallel with the Farm Scale Evaluations (e.g. "Gene Flow Monitoring from the GM Crop FSE Sites: Monitoring Gene Flow from the GM Crop to Non-GM Equivalent Crops in the Vicinity. Part 1: Forage Maize" (October 2003)) and other research published in scientific journals (e.g. Wilkinson et al. (2003) Science online www.scienceexpress.org (9 October 2003)). The issues of gene flow and hybridisation between GM and non-GM crops are addressed in Chapter 7 of the GM Science Review published in July 2003 (http://www. gmsciencedebate.org.uk/).
The impact of hybridisation between herbicide tolerant GM crops and other crops or wild relatives is considered as part of the risk assessment carried out prior to any decision to authorise the release of herbicide-tolerant GM crops.
Under EU Directive 2001/18, no genetically modified organism may be used in animal feed in the EU unless and until EU member states have agreed collectively that it is safe to do. In making these decisions, each GM product is judged on its own merits according to evidence of risk to human health or the environment. If authorisation is granted, any subsequent marketing of the GM product in question will be subject to conditions of consent, including details of how the GM product must be monitored. These monitoring conditions may or may not include a requirement to monitor the impact of GM animal feed on animal health depending on the details of each specific case. No such condition has been thought necessary to date.
In the UK, we are advised on GM product applications by a statutory expert bodythe Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). If a proposed GM product were intended for use in animal feed, ACRE would consult the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs (ACAF), which would provide advice on any risks to animal health. If the experts advised that a proposed GM product was safe but that its effects on animal health should be monitored, we would use our voice within Europe to call for this to be included in the monitoring plan.
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Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role the GM Science Review Panel will play in advising her Department on future decisions in respect of applications to grow GM crops in the UK. 
Mr. Morley: The GM Science Review Panel will not play a role in advising on future decisions on GM crop applications. The Government are advised on these matters by a statutory expert body, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.
The GM Science Review was commissioned specifically to undertake a comprehensive review of the science of genetic modification relevant to crops and food. The Government are taking its findings into account along with other elements of the GM public dialogue (the Strategy Unit study of costs and benefits and the debate "GM Nation?") in shaping its overall approach to GM crops and food. The GM Science Review Panel published their first report in July 2003 and will shortly conclude their work with the publication of a second supplementary report.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role her Department will have in implementing the surveillance scheme proposed in the Food Standards Agency's study on post-marketing monitoring. 
Mr. Morley: I am aware that in July 2003 the Food Standards Agency published research by Imperial College looking into the feasibility of monitoring the buying and eating of novel foods, including GM foods. I understand that the Food Standards Agency has not yet decided whether or not to proceed with the recommendations.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 4 November 2003, Official Report, column 561W, what research has been conducted on unintended biochemical consequences of genetic modification in the GM crops that were tested in the farm scale evaluations. 
Mr. Morley: Potential unintended biochemical consequences of specific genetic modifications are considered as part of the case-by-case risk assessment of all GM crops. This consideration is based on research studies of the composition of particular crops grown under a range of conditions. Data examining composition of the crops in the Farm Scale Evaluations will form an important part of the assessment of any applications to market the crops concerned.
The results of the farm-scale evaluations, published on 16 October, are in the public domain and are being discussed widely. The results relate to specific GM crops and have been passed to the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) for statutory advice. ACRE will be holding open meetings on
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25 November in London and fourth December in Edinburgh to take evidence from stakeholders and the public. There are no plans to hold a further public debate specifically on the results of the Farm Scale Evaluations.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what research the choice of (a) dose, (b) timing, (c) formulation and (d) method of application of the herbicide used on GM maize in the farm scale evaluations was based. 
Mr. Morley: Research and other information necessary to make these choices was determined by the company concerned. The specific use of the herbicide in the farm-scale evaluations was covered by an approval issued by the Pesticides Safety Directorate.
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