§ 6. Mr. David Drew (Stroud)
If the Government will organise an independent investigation into genetically modified organisms, with particular regard to (a) labelling and (b) segregation. 
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Jeff Rooker)
We have no current plans to do as my hon. Friend asks, but the Government will hold public consultation on biotechnology in the near future in order to inform future policy.
§ Mr. Drew
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Responsibility for GMOs is shared jointly with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Will the Minister acknowledge the unprecedented level of interest in GMOs, ranging from the Prince of Wales to The Express? Will he reconsider his earlier reply, and consider an investigation into labelling and segregation of GMOs to ensure consumer confidence and choice?
§ Mr. Rooker
The widespread interest in how our food is produced, marketed and labelled should be welcomed by everyone. We ask, however, that people consider the science. I could nitpick about The Express article on Monday, which contained inaccuracies. From September, compulsory labelling of genetically modified soya and maize will begin. Several other products are already voluntarily labelled to show that they are genetically modified. We cannot force segregation of crops 509 internationally as we would have a problem with the World Trade Organisation, but the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food produced a list of 48 suppliers of non-genetically modified soya and maize a few weeks ago. Others have since been added to the list, which now names 57 suppliers. The more information available, the better for all concerned.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes)
Can the Minister explain why acres of genetically modified soya have been planted just 100 yards from the largest organic farm in the west country without any consultation with the organic farmer about the effect on his livelihood? How can 841 acres of genetically modified trials, approved by MAFF, be allowed only 100 yards from an organic farm?
§ Mr. Rooker
It is not MAFF that approves that. [Interruption.] No, it is not. It is right that more than one Government Department is involved. In terms of crops, the Department of the Environment controls the releases to the environment through its advisory committee. It is important that it is not MAFF, the food-sponsoring Ministry, which plays that role. If I have the location of the farm mentioned by the hon. Gentleman correctly in mind, there are few acres of genetically modified crops within the total of the experimental acres and the genetically modified crops are 2 km away from the organic farm.
§ Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North)
Does my hon. Friend agree that scientists are often regarded as arrogant, distant and uncaring, and that they, too, must win the argument with the consumer?
§ Mr. Rooker
I endorse what my hon. Friend said. Many scientists wish to be as open as possible. Obviously, sometimes confidentiality and peer group discussions present difficulties. Nevertheless, it is in the interests of science that it is as open as possible and it is in the interests of us all that we keep scientists on tap, not on top.