`Soft' rules on GM crops to be approved Ministers to approve code on GM crops

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The Independent Online
A CABINET committee is expected to approve an industry code on the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops, despite protests that it is too soft.

The code, drawn up by agrochemical and seed industries with the National Farmers' Union, is to be discussed by a ministerial committee today. Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the science minister who has interests in GM technology, sits on the committee.

The Independent understands the committee is likely to approve the code, which would place heavy penalties on companies that failed to comply. But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Greenpeace have all expressed reservations about the scheme, which aims to ensure that GM foods are labelled.

Seed merchants, growers and wholesalers should ensure GM crops are labelled so they can be traced through the food chain, it says. And farmers should ensure all GM seed is removed before growing other crops. GM crops should be separated from others, but there are concerns that a 200-metre barrier will be inadequate. A tender for auditors to monitor the scheme has been announced, which says all GM variety owners, merchants and growers must be visited next year, before full commercial production starts, but by 2002 that will drop to 50 per cent of merchants and owners and 10 per cent of growers.

Doug Parr of Greenpeace dismissed the scheme as "cosy", saying the Government's acceptance of it showed the biotechnology industry had friends only "in high places". "There is a choice to be made. Farming is either organic or GM, and the Government is not recognising that," he said.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said it was not government policy to discuss meetings of cabinet committees.

t Ecology campaigners yesterday claimed a victory against Monsanto, the firm developing GM crops, which was refused a High Court injunction permanently banning members of the GenetiX Snowball group from uprooting plants at trial sites.

The Frankenstein effect, Business Review, page 3