Letter: Engineered food

Sir: It really is about time the Government gave some clear leadership over genetically modified (GM) crops.

We have huge public concern, including an increasing number of scientists and organisations uncomfortable with the Government's un-coordinated and weak approach. The technology has been allowed to grow apace without any thoughts as to where we might be heading. The Minister of Agriculture told me he had "no idea" what percentage of land would be under GM crops within 10 years and apparently no forward strategy for farmers or consumers.

Liberal Democrats recently passed a motion at conference calling for a five-year moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops. This is in line with recommendations from English Nature, the Government's official wildlife advisers, amongst others.

Government departments are all over the place - the Ministry of Agriculture handles food safety and labelling (or lack of it), the Department of the Environment the release and marketing of live organisms, the Department of Health medical issues, and the Department of Trade and Industry takes overall responsibility. No wonder Monsanto and the like are having a free run uninhibited by government.

Jeff Rooker, the minister for food safety, referring to GM crops, recently told me: "We are not in the driving seat." One has to ask, why not?

Liberal Democrats have constantly striven to be constructive on this issue. But the Government really must now act to introduce a moratorium, clear and full labelling on goods, mandatory segregation of GM and non- GM crops and vastly improved co-ordination within government. The time for dilly-dallying is over.


Liberal Democrat Environment Team

House of Commons

London SW1