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6-Regulation: UK Government urged to set biotech crop rules

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Government urged to set biotech crop rules
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   9 Jul 2004 

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Government urged to set biotech crop rules

LONDON - A parliamentary committee of ministers has told the government
that it cannot allow genetically modified (GMO) crops to be grown until
it introduces concrete rules on planting. The government is expected to
launch a consultation exercise on the issue over the next few weeks.

"There is huge confusion in both the government's and the European
Union's position in relation to GM crops, especially in relation to
thresholds of contamination of non-GM crops and thus liability," the
report, released by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee,
said yesterday.

"We recommend that the government begin the process of consultation soon,
so that final details of a coexistence and liability regime for GM crop
cultivation can be settled."

Earlier this year, the British government gave the green light for a
single type of GMO maize to be grown on a commercial basis, but since
then, the company behind the biotech seeds, Germany's Bayer CropScience,
has decided not to press ahead with plans to bring them to the market.

The powerful all-party committee also recommended that any future
planting regime respect the legal requirement that organic crops suffer
zero contamination and not the 0.1-0.9 level currently being discussed.

Last month, several European Union governments called for more concrete
rules to regulate GMOs while also encouraging growth in the bloc's
fledgling organic farming sector.

So far, only a handful of EU governments have drafted coexistence laws
providing for financial liability in cases of crop contamination. These
laws must be based on guidelines issued by the European Commission last July.

The guidelines refer, for example, to isolation distances between crops,
buffer zones and pollen barriers such as hedgerows, as well as advice on
cooperation between farmers on sowing plans and crop varieties with
different flowering times.

Environmentalists backed the UK report's findings.

"It is clear that the committee has grasped the significance for farmers
and consumers of allowing GM crops to be grown in the UK farm more
thoroughly than either the UK government or the European Union," Friends
of the Earth campaigner Clare Oxborrow said.

"If the forthcoming government consultation does not take this report on
board it will be a meaningless sham."


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