Government face GM debate criticism

MPs have denounced the government's public consultation on genetically modified crops as "an opportunity missed".

In a report published on Thursday, the Commons environment select committee argued that not enough funds were allocated to the GM Nation debate, while too tight a deadline was imposed for conclusions.

Although the cross-party committee admitted it was an "imaginative and innovative attempt to inform" the public on the issue, it was only "modestly successful" in certain areas of the country, despite the hard work of the steering committee.

The committee highlighted that the aim of a debate is to educate and inform members of the public.

But the report concluded: "The GM public debate did not do so, in part because the information which was meant to underpin it - the Strategy Unit's economic review, the GM Science Review Panel, and the outcome of the farm scale evaluations - was not released until late in the process or afterwards."

"The debate also did not engage people beyond a self-selecting group which already held views about GM," it continued.

"Thus the wider public was in the main not informed by the debate and nor were their opinions canvassed.

"The principle blame lies with two decisions made by the government. It did not allocate sufficient resources to the debate and it set an absurdly tight deadline for its conclusion. This affected the conduct of the debate, particularly the publicity it was able to obtain and what information was available to it."