COUNCIL MEETING, 25 FEBRUARY, 2004

REPORT OF THE

LEADER/CABINET

PART I

POLICY ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS

1. On 25 July 2003, the Leader decided that the County Council would:

4. The use of GM products and crops in the European Community (EC) is controlled by Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms (GMO's). The Directive provides a procedure for the European Commission and the 15 member states to decide whether to allow individual GM products to be placed on the EC market. Only "EU competent authorities" can grant approvals for GM foods to be sold or grown in Europe. In the UK, the competent authority is the UK Government. Therefore, Hampshire County Council has no direct powers to make Hampshire GM-free, other than by lobbying the government.

5. Although some GMO's have been approved for use in the UK, (e.g soya and maize), the EU suspended the authorisation of new GM crops in 1998 - mainly due to public concerns. However, the EU is now under pressure to lift the moratorium, not least from the USA via the World Trade Organisation. Some local authorities have purported to declared their area "GM free" by applying Article 19 of EU Directive 2001/18/EC but this is a very dubious legal validity as local authorities are not competent authorities for the purposes of the Directive. The UK Government (DEFRA) do not agree GM free status is appropriate unless there is sound scientific evidence of risks to human health or the environment.

6. Until recently, it was generally held that there was not any sound scientific evidence of risks to human health or the environment. However, recent UK crop trials showed that there could be risks to the environment from GM oilseed rape or GM sugar beet. This may be enough to declare an area GM-free but only on a case by case basis, because the same trials found that GM maize was less harmful to the environment. An application by Austria to introduce legislation banning the use of GMO's in the region of Upper Austria was rejected recently by the European Commission. The Commission confirmed the decision made in July 2003 by the European Food Safety Authority because there was no new evidence provided by the authority that GM plants were a risk to public health or the environment.

7. Finally, there is the whole issue of what is "GM free"? The legal definition is less than 0.9%, to allow for "accidental minor contamination". The current Hampshire County Council policy on school meals established in 1999 is a ban on foods containing "detectable GM". It is felt appropriate to update this policy to reflect latest EU legal standards. If soya is taken as an example, the current policy could result in a ban on all products containing soya. This is because practically all soya now contains traces of GM and sensitive tests can now detect 0.1 to 0.5% GM material. Hampshire Scientific Service could carry out research to identify non-GM alternatives to permitted GM ingredients (e.g. soya binding agents).

8. In response to the two notices of motion, it appears that the County Council does not have legal powers to declare Hampshire GM-free. However, it would be feasible for the Council to lobby Central Government and the EU to keep the UK GM-free until they have scientific evidence that there are no significant risks to human health or the environment. The Policy and Resources Policy Review Committee on 4 December 2003 considered a report by the Director of Property, Business and Regulatory Services and Director of Environment on the issues. They supported its conclusions and additional comments made by the Leader and officers. However, the Committee also felt it was appropriate to include a reference to seek to keep Hampshire free from GM crops and to make a direct reference to Article 19 as a means of lobbying Government. Finally, they wished to encourage district and unitary authorities in Hampshire to adopt a similar GM policy to the County Council.

1. The Leader has considered the matter and the advice of the Policy Review Committee and supports the conclusions reached subject to some minor format changes.

2. The proposals support several of the Aims of the Corporate Strategy; namely Aim 2, (Stewardship of the environment); Aim 4 (Building strong and safe communities) and Aim 5 (Improving services)

RECOMMENDATIONS


1. That the County Council updates its precautionary GM Policy to reflect recent
changes in EU Law, the findings of the latest Government reports and crop
trials and feedback from the County Council's GM Debate as follows:

That the County Council will:

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Appendix 1

COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING 25 FEBRUARY 2004

NOTICES OF MOTION TO COUNCIL ON 18 SEPTEMBER 2003

1. GM CROPS

Councillor M. J. Roberts' Notice of Motion:-

"This Council recognises: