GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch welcomes MPs' call for strong 'polluter pays' legislation.

GeneWatch welcomes today's publication of a report by a Parliamentary Select Committee that criticises the Government's approach to implementing the Environmental Liability Directive(1).

The MPs criticised the government's approach of minimum implementation of EU Directives and said the Government must properly explain the reasons for its policy choices. They were particularly critical of DEFRA stating: " It is surprising that DEFRA has not been more robust in its defence of the environment; it appears that the DTI 'business-friendly' agenda has been predominant "(2).

The most important policy recommendation was the extension of the scope of the regulations to cover nationally protected biodiversity, such as SSSIs. They noted that: " the Government is at odds with all the environmental organisations, and also with its delivery partners, the Environment Agency and Natural England "(2).

Becky Price of GeneWatch UK said - "This report validates the serious concerns raised by GeneWatch and others. The Government's approach would give an impression that laws exist to make the polluter pay when in fact they are a sham" (3).

Sandy Luk independent expert on the Environmental Liability Directive said "The EFRA Committee report is a triumph of common sense over the indiscriminate application of Government policy. It gives our endangered wildlife the value and importance it deserves. It is also an urgently needed appeal to the Government to re-think its 'minimum implementation' approach. Less regulation is not necessarily better - for business or the environment. I look forward to seeing the EFRA Committee's examination of the draft regulations."

Under the proposed regulations genetically modified organisms are unlikely to be covered because a company would be able to claim that it is not liable for any environmental damage because it has government permission to grow them (the 'permit defence'). The MPs' report stated that: " ...The Government has also provided insufficient evidence to back up its assurance that existing controls are sufficient to protect against GM damage"(4).

Furthermore evidence submitted to the MPs reveals that the biotechnology industry continues to argue against environmental liability for GMOs (5). Commenting, Becky Price said "Despite public concerns, government continues to protect an industry that is not prepared to take responsibility for its technology. This will do little to build public trust and is a very disingenuous approach after all the years of controversy."

For more information contact:

  • Sandy Luk: 07879 655 779
  • Becky Price: 07949 396328

Notes to Editors

  1. House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee - Implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive - Sixth Report of Session 2006–07
  2. Summary page 3
  3. GeneWatch PR: Key wildlife species and habitats excluded from proposed GM environmental liability laws. 30 November, 2006
  4. Recommendation 6
  5. Para 59

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