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    BCPC Urges Minister to Challenge Brussels on GM Legislation
2009-08-14

The UK’s first food strategy document, launched by the Government, confirms that global food production will need to increase dramatically to meet future needs. Commenting on its publication, Environment Secretary, Mr Hilary Benn has called for a radical rethink on UK food production and says, “If GM can make a contribution then we have a choice about whether to make use of that technology.”

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“It is a positive step that Mr Benn now recognises that GM technologies have a critical part to play in meeting both production and environmental challenges,” said BCPC Chairman, Dr Colin Ruscoe. “But in continuing to urge Brussels to speed up GM authorisations he must declare his position on thresholds for (EU) unlicensed crop varieties, on the EU agenda this autumn.” One option being considered is a threshold of GM ‘contamination’, which could apply to the 30 or so crops, including maize and soya, that have already passed the EU health and safety tests, but still await political agreement for import and use e.g in animal feed.

BCPC says that the Minister must oppose Brussels’ attempts to continue the practice of imposing thresholds without scientific basis. These purport to be safety measures, in line with the ‘precautionary principle’ but simply work to the detriment of food production without delivering health or environmental benefit. A prime example of this is the EU limits on pesticides in water – which will result in the banning of critical agrochemicals – where massive costs are already being incurred in removing chemicals at levels with no toxicological significance.

“Mr Benn has shown that he supports a scientific approach to crop protection and production legislation, and BCPC has supported his opposition to hazard-based cut-offs for pesticide registration recently approved by the EU Parliament,” says Dr Ruscoe. “He should now maintain this stance in the GM debate, and strongly advocate a scientific risk-assessment approach, not the adoption of arbitrary thresholds.”

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