By Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) - EU rules that prevent genetically modified crops from being grown in the UK, even after they pass rigorous safety tests, are not fit for purpose and should be totally reformed, British lawmakers said on Thursday.
Members of parliament's science and technology committee said the EU regulation is driven more by politics than science.
Scientific evidence is clear, they said, that genetically modified crops "pose no more risk to humans, animals or the environment than equivalent crops developed using more conventional techniques".
The committee criticized huge delays in decision-making and said the way the EU's regulatory system works means that member countries opposed to GM crops can stop them from being grown in other EU countries.
"A regulatory system which can take decades to reach a decision cannot possibly be considered fit for purpose," Andrew Miller, the committee's chair, said in a statement.
In its report, the committee said the stringent rules had driven research activity out of the EU and put at risk Britain's chance to be a global player in new agricultural technology.
"To meet the huge challenge of feeding a burgeoning global population, using fewer resources, as our climate becomes increasingly unstable, we will need to use all of the tools at our disposal, be they social, political, economic or technological," Miller said. "Regulatory reform is no longer merely an option, it is a necessity."
Widespread in the Americas and Asia, GM crops are rare in Europe. Opposition is strong in some countries such as France and Germany, while Britain is broadly in favor of them.
The UK committee highlighted three "major flaws" in the EU regulatory regime: it is based on the assumption that GM crops inherently pose greater risk than crops produced using other techniques; it assesses the risks posed by GM crops but fails to balance them with potentially significant benefits to the producer, the consumer and the environment; it prevents EU states from making their own decisions about whether to adopt GM products.
"The purpose of shared regulation should be to ensure mutual protection from unsafe products, not to unjustifiably restrict the choices available to other elected governments and the citizens they represent," Miller said.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Leslie Adler)