Environmental Law Review

Defra’s coexistence proposals for GM crops: a recipe for confrontation?

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Courtesy of Environmental Law Review

Defra has pursued a cautious and step by step approach to the development of coexistence measures to allow genetically modified (GM) and conventional farming to work side by side when (as is widely expected) the go-ahead is given for the commercial introduction of GM crops in the UK. It published a wide-ranging consultation document on GM Coexistence measures as long ago as July 2006. The consultation closed on 20 October 2006, and stimulated no fewer than 11,676 submissions. Defra published its initial analysis of these in November 2007.

The vast majority of responses came from members of the public (11,442), but three petitions generated most of these and a large number of stock answers were prepared by organisation campaigning against GM agriculture. Those responses from the public that were not on stock letters or forms fell into to broad categories, according to Defra: those registering a general opposition to GM crops (approxomately 1,370 in total) and those whose primary concern was to protect organic agriculture (approximately 390).

The consultation revealed highly motivated, and continuing, opposition from sections of the public to the introduction of GM agriculture in the UK. Before finalising it’s legislative proposals Defra is waiting for two further developments: the conclusion of three research projects on coexistence and crop separation distances due to report in Spring 2008, and the adoption of EU thresholds for labelling adventitious GM presence in conventional seeds.

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