MPs’ enquiry asks if law restricts GM progress

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European commission

DEFRA believes GM can help foster a 'vibrant sector' in UK agriculture
DEFRA believes GM can help foster a 'vibrant sector' in UK agriculture
Genetically modified (GM) food laws face scrutiny by MPs in a cross-party enquiry that has just launched.

The enquiry was announced today (February 20) and will be carried out by the government’s Science and Technology Committee.

Environmental and consumer pressure groups have for years urged for caution on the development of GM foods.

However, a growing lobby of commercial interests has expressed concerns that failure to harness the advantages of GM threatens EU competitiveness and the ability to feed the world. That’s because many trials show GM crops are able to deliver significantly higher yields than conventional varieties because they can be cultivated to resist pests and diseases.

Precautionary principle

The cross-party Science and Technology Committee aims to ask all interested parties whether they believe EU law has taken too much of a precautionary approach and needs to change.

In addition the group said it would examine the barriers to UK GM research and if EU regulation was erring too much towards the precautionary principle in other areas.

It said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) believed GM was one of several technologies necessary to foster a “vibrant sector”​ in UK agriculture.

Holding back development

However the committee claimed the EU’s application of the precautionary principle had been criticised for holding back development of the technology. That was despite the fact that European Commission reports had found no scientific evidence associating GM with higher risks for the environment or food and feed safety.

The committee is inviting written submissions now.

“GM technology essentially offers an array of benefits, but concerns are being expressed that it is being held back by misuse of the precautionary principle,"​ said Andrew Miller, MP and chairman of the Science and Technology Committee.

‘Hampering scientific competitiveness’

“In this enquiry we will be looking at whether such restrictions are hampering UK scientific competitiveness and whether they are still appropriate in light of the available evidence on the safety of GM.”

Some have argued the long-term health effects of GM food consumption are not yet known. Others have claimed it is hard to prevent GM crops from cross-fertilising with conventional plant varieties, so their cultivation will ultimately limit consumer choice.

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