PUBLIC MEETING CALLED TO DISCUSS GM PRIORITIES
The Government's GM advisory body, the Agriculture and Environment
Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) is holding its first public consultation
meeting at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London on:
Thursday 7th December.
The purpose of the meeting is to develop a dialogue between the Commission,
stakeholders and the public about its initial priorities for work and
to engage people in a productive debate about decision-making on biotechnology.
It is the Commission's important first step in trying to improve communications
with the public on these issues.
The meeting will be a consultation on the Commission's draft Work Plan,
which proposes three priority themes:
- The first is strategic implications of decision-making on
biotechnology, which will be explored through two case studies: the
current Farm Scale Evaluations and gene transfer.
- The second is the issues around animals and biotechnology and the
appropriateness of the decision making machinery for handling them.
- The third theme is future biotechnology developments and their
possible impact on society.
The Commission will also explore the issues of consumer choice and
public attitudes to biotechnology; bioremediation (biotechnological
approaches to cleaning up contamination); and legal liability for environmental
Established in June this year, the AEBC has been set-up to provide
independent advice to the government on biotechnology as it affects
agriculture and the environment. It will look at the broad picture,
taking ethical, social and public acceptability issues into account
as well as the science.
AEBC Chair, Professor Malcolm Grant said:
'We have been set up to provide a strategic overview of this technology,
something that has so far been missing from the debate.
"We are committed to openness and transparency and we are aiming
to engage as many people and organisations as we can in forming our
views. The meeting on the 7th is the first step in what will be a continuing
process of consultation."
Admission is by ticket only.
Free tickets are available from the AEBC Secretariat.
Contact details are:
Room 1 /5, Albany House, 94-98 Petty France, London SW1H 9ST
Notes to Editors
1. Meeting details
The Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission is holding
its first public consultation meeting on 7 December in London at the
Royal Horticultural Halls Conference Centre, Victoria. The meeting starts
at 10am and doors open at 9.30am. Admission is by free tickets. Space
is limited, so tickets are being issued on a 'first come first served
basis' and initially limited to one per organisation.
2. AEBC terms of reference
The AEBC was launched in June this year to give independent advice
to the UK Government and the devolved administrations. As part of a
new strategic framework, established following a Government review of
the advisory and regulatory framework for biotechnology during 1999,
it works together with:
- the Human Genetics Commission (which advises on genetic
technologies and their impact on humans); and
- the Food Standards Agency (which includes within its
responsibilities all aspects of the safety of genetically modified
The 1999 review concluded that current regulatory and advisory arrangements
worked well in granting approvals for individual processes or products,
but that a new approach to the provision of strategic advice on biotechnology
issues was needed, to:
- be more transparent and easier to understand;
- be more able to deal with fast moving biotechnology developments;
- take on board clearly the views of all potential stakeholders, and
broad ethical and environmental considerations.
The AEBC's remit is to:
- offer strategic advice to Government on biotechnology issues which
impact on agriculture and the environment;
- liaise closely with, but not duplicate the work of the other two
bodies which together with the AEBC form the new strategic advisory
- the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) which will advise on genetic
technologies and their impact on humans; and
- the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which will include within its
responsibilities all aspects of the safety and use of genetically
modified food and animal feed.
- keep under review current and possible future developments in
biotechnology with actual or potential implications for agriculture
and the environment;
- advise Government on the ethical and social implications arising
from these developments and their public acceptability; and
- consider and advise on any specific issues relating to relevant
aspects of biotechnology as requested by the Government.
As part of this process the Commission is expected to:
- identify any gaps in the regulatory and advisory framework;
- consider the wider implications of the lessons to be learned from
individual cases requiring regulatory decision;
- advise on any changes which should be made to Government guidelines
which regulatory bodies are required to follow;
- make recommendations as to changes in the current structure of
regulatory and advisory bodies;
- co-ordinate and exchange information with the relevant regulatory
and advisory bodies;
- seek to involve and consult stakeholders and the public on a
regular basis on the issues which it is considering; and
- operate in accordance with best practice for public bodies with
regard to openness, transparency, accessibility, timeliness and
exchange of information.
The Commission will:
- in carrying out its work take into account European and global
- nationally, adopt a UK perspective taking appropriate account of
legal and other differences between England, Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland; and
- draw up a work programme.
The Government may also ask the Commission for advice on a particular
issue and, if necessary, direct it not to become involved in an area
if this could be better handled elsewhere.
- In the context of the work of the Commission 'Government' comprises
the UK Government and the devolved administrations.
3. The Work Plan document was launched on 27th September in Edinburgh
this year. It will form the basis of a rolling programme of
consultation and work.
4. The three themes are being tackled by Sub Groups of the Commission.
These Groups will make regular reports to the full Commission and have
the following remits:
Group A proposes to undertake its first Case Study on Farm Scale Evaluations
(FSE) with the objective of evaluating the role of FSEs in the regulatory
process and in appraising the impact of GM plant technology on the environment.
This objective will be appraised by:
- reviewing the reasons for setting up the trials;
- reviewing the extent of governmental, commercial and public
consultation and decision-making processes used in agreeing the
objectives and the implementation of the trials;
- understanding the agreed objectives of the trials, and the
protocols used to carry them out;
- reviewing the parameters and extent of the data available to reach
- reviewing the public's opinions and perceptions of the FSEs;
- identifying the significant gaps in information that may remain
following the conclusion of the FSEs relevant to appraising the
impact of GM plant technology on the environment taking into account
the public's continuing concerns about the application of GM plant
Group B on animal modification will brief the Commission on the issues
around animals and biotechnology, in terms of the technologies involved;
their goals; the animal welfare, environmental, social and ethical implications;
the regulatory framework and current policy; and any gaps in regulation
Group C has the remit of keeping the AEBC well informed about current
and future national and international developments relevant to fulfilling
its strategic remit.
This will include providing information on:
- trends in biotechnologies, in agricultural practice and policy,
and in environmental issues;
- trends in other technologies, where these may interact with
- relevant social, economic, legal and political trends i.e. those
that will have a bearing on how biotechnology is shaped and on how
is received by society.
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