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6-Regulation: UK government plans to change public's rights in GM law

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TITLE:  Leaked Report Shows Government Scrambling to Change GM Law
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth UK
DATE:   May 20, 2002

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Leaked Report Shows Government Scrambling to Change GM Law

The Government is planning to change the law to make it more difficult for 
the public to object to the commercial development of GM crops, according 
to a confidential note leaked to Friends of the Earth. The note headlined 
"Draft Submission on Representation and Hearings" <
resource/leaked_documents/gm_draft_submission.pdf> follows the public 
hearings now underway into the listing of the GM maize variety "CHARDON 
LL". The hearings are being held because lawyers for Friends of the Earth 
discovered the public's right to demand them under the "Seeds (National 
List of Varieties) Regulations. More than 200 individuals and groups have 
objected to the listing of CHARDON LL. More than 60 are giving oral 
evidence at the hearings, which restart in London tomorrow (20th May) [1].

But the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs is now 
planning to change the law to prevent objectors from raising GM safety 
issues at such hearings. The change could be made before Ministers have to 
decide on the listing of SHERIDAN (another GM forage maize), due around 
October 2002. The listing procedure is the only point in the commercial 
development of GM crops where the public have a legal right to raise key 
safety issues and other objections.

The DEFRA note admits that "any proposals to remove GM safety issues from 
the scope of National List representations and hearings will be criticised 
because it will seem that we are trying to silence GM objectors. However, 
we believe that an effective presentation strategy can be prepared in 
advance  A fully fledged presentation strategy will be prepared in 
consultation with the Communications Directorate, for clearance with 

DEFRA has decided to
"Take administrative action to exclude from the hearings any consideration 
which are the responsibility of other bodies and subject to other 
legislative controls (e.g. Gm safety  ACRE, Novel foods  ACNFP) Give 
statutory effect to the above by amending the regulations so that any 
'person affected' may make representations and be heard, but only on 
matters relevant to the criteria for National Listing."

Friends of the Earth GM campaigner Adrian Bebb said:
"Yet another yowling GM cat has been let out of the bag. The Government 
pretends to be neutral in this debate. But once more we find that it is 
secretly planning to skew the system in favour of the biotech industry, and 
to take away the public's right to raise objections to and concerns about 
the commercial development of GM crops. This shameful memo shows once again 
that only two things motivate the Government on the GM issue, to deliver 
what their friends in the biotech business want, and to spin, spin and spin 
again in the forlorn hope that the public won't notice what is going on."

[1] The hearings venue is Bankside House, Sumner Street, London SE1 9JA

Contact details:
Friends of the Earth 26-28 Underwood St. LONDON N1 7JQ
Tel: +44-20 7490 1555
Fax: +44-20 7490 0881


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