The AGRICULTURE and ENVIRONMENT BIOTECHNOLOGY COMMISSION are coming to NORWICH on 5/6 February 2001. It is very important that as many people concerned about the environmental and other impacts of GM technologies attend to give their views.
NB this is the only meeting to gain the views of people from the whole of the Eastern Region
Phil Dale of the John Innes Centre, a leading plant biotech centre on the outskirts of Norwich, is one of the Commission's members and presumably at his request this meeting is taking place at the JIC on the Norwich Science Park - a very non-central location. This almost certainly guarantees a sizeable turn out of pro-GM JIC types and they will probably be making use of their other local contacts, eg with pro-GM farmers etc. The under-representation of the rest of the community is likely to be exacerbated as to date the AEBC still has not announced even the time of the public meeting on the evening of the 5th.
Thanks to Liz Wallace for the following background piece on the AEBC and its remit. Their are some decent people on the Commission and it is worth making the effort to present your views. If you cannot attend, you can still contact them with your concerns - details below.
Background to the AEBC: AGRICULTURE and ENVIRONMENT BIOTECHNOLOGY COMMISSION (see www.aebc.gov.uk for details)
Their Consultation Paper was launched 27 September 2000: "The AEBC will provide Government with independent strategic advice on developments in biotechnology and their implications for agriculture and the environment".
Their priorities are: a. examining the Government's decision-making process on biotechnology, using case studies of the farmscale evalua- tions and issues surrounding gene flow.
b. assessing the impact of biotechnological developments on animals, and whether current regulatory and advisory systems address these issues adequately;
c. horizon scanning to consider the implications of new developments.
The AEBC, the Government's straegic advisory body on bio- technology issues affecting agriculture and the environment, agreed these priorities after consultation with some 400 organisations and individuals, and an initial public meeting held in London on 7 December.
The Commission will hold formal meetings (around 4 to 5 a year) in different parts of the United Kingdom, including the devolved administrations.
The first is to be in Norwich on 5/6 February at the JIC - the details are being announced at the end of this week. The open public meeting is to be held on the Monday evening, likely start 8 p.m., with a session the following morning which we can also attend but only as observers. Tickets for the London meeting - though free ! - had to be applied for, giving name, address and organisation.
Other public meetings are to be held in Edinburgh in April, Birmingham in July, Northern Ireland at Belfast in September, while Wales is not to get a look in until May 2002. They are to continue until December 2002 in five so far undisclosed areas.
This Norwich meeting, both the first regional one and for the entire eastern area, incidentally where the most GM is being trialled - Lincs, Cambs, Essex, Herts, Suffolk and Norfolk.
So it is important that as many people and organisations both know about it, and attend, as possible. This consultation is an on-going process, making our input through questions and representations, written and verbal, all the more relevant.
FARMSCALE EVALUATIONS and Gene Flow: Public responses to issues such as farmscale evaluations (FSEs) and gene flow indicate concerns about the Government's policy processes.
The AEBC is to help the government improve its understanding of the public's view on the acceptability or otherwise of GM releases, and make recommendations on how to improve the decision-making process.
The inquiry will include the effectiveness of the consultation between government, commercial organisations and the public on the farmscale evaluations and how well the evaluations match public concern.
ANIMALS and Biotechnology: The AEBC will hear from experts about their work on animals and biotechnology, and will consult widely about the issues raised by scientific developments - for example, genetically modified animals.
The AEBC will then consider how well existing advisory and regulatory structures can cope with the situation and propose solutions.
HORIZON SCANNING: The AEBC will consider new developments in biotechnology and other relevant issues including regulatory, environmmental, social and economic trends, both in the UK and globally.
FUTURE WORK: The AEBC is also carrying out preliminary work on future inquiries into consumer choice and public attitudes, bio- remediation, and LIABILITY for ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE.
The Chair of the AEBC, Professor Malcolm Grant (Land Economy at Cambridge) said: 3The AEBC has a very sensitive and challenging job ahead. Scientific develop- ments are forcing our society to grapple with complex technical issues, and to confront ethical and moral dilemmas about how biotechnological developments can be regulated so as to prevent damage to the environment and encourage good agriculture practice.2
3We have consulted widely on our Work Plan (which was sent to Mo Mowlam and ministers in the devolved admini- strations on 11 January to determine the AEBC's priorities, and have very much valued the help of those who responded. We will be exploring these ideas thoroughly, and ensuring that people are fully informed of our deliberations and have ample opportunity to contribute to our work.2
The Vice Chair is Julie Hill, Programme Adviser and former Director of Green Alliance.
The Commission is subdivided into sub-groups: Decision-making: Farm Scale Evaluations/Gene Flow: Drs.Dave Carmichael and Phil Dale, Prof. Robin Grove-White, Dr Rosie Hails, Jeff Maxwell, Dr Sue Mayer, Justine Thornton (lawyer, convenor)
Animals and Biotechnology: Prof. Michael Banner, Helen Browning, Dr Matthew Freeman, Judith Hahn, Jeff Maxwell, Dr Ben Mepham, Anna Bradley (convenor),
Horizon Scanning: Dr Ed Dart, John Gilliland, Edith Iweajunwa, Dr Derek Langslow, Dr Roger Turner, Julie Hill (Convenor)
Develpment Group: 1. Public Attitudes/Consumer Choice: Anna Bradley, Helen Browning, Drs. D.Carmichael, Ed Dart, Sue Mayer, Ben Mepham, Prof. Robin Grove-White (convenor). 2. Bioremediation: Dr P.Dale, Judith Hahn, Dr Rosie Hails (convenor). 3. Liability: Dr M.Freeman, John Gilliland Dr Derek Langslow, Justine Thornton (convenor). [update at 15 Jan 01]