AR-News: Largest ever study finds GM crops 'harm wildlife'
WeArPetitions at aol.com
WeArPetitions at aol.com
Fri Oct 17 15:12:16 EDT 2003
Thu Oct 16, 4:05 PM ET
By John Mason and Clive Cookson in London
The world's biggest scientific experiment into the environmental impact of
genetically-modified crops, conducted on British farms, has shown that GM
rapeseed and sugar beet are more harmful to wildlife than conventionally grown
The results, published on Thursday by the Royal Society, are vital for
helping ministers in Britain and other European countries in deciding whether to
lift their ban on the crops and approve the commercialisation of GM technology
despite consumer opposition.
However, the trials yielded a mixed message, with some groups of wildlife
faring better in fields sown with genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant maize.
Scientists unveiling the results at the Science Centre in London said some
insect groups, such as bees in beet crops and butterflies in beet and spring
rape, were recorded more frequently in and around conventional crops because
there were more weeds to provide food and cover.
In contrast, there were more weeds in and around the GM herbicide-tolerant
maize crops, more butterflies and bees around at certain times of the year, and
more weed seeds - an important source of food for birds.
Researchers stressed that the differences they found were not a direct result
of the way in which the crops had been genetically modified. They arose
because the GM crops gave farmers taking part in the trials new options for weed
Responding to the results, Margaret Beckett, environment secretary, said the
government would reflect carefully on both the scientific information and a
public debate held around the country in the summer.
"I have said consistently that the Government is neither pro-nor anti-GM
crops - our over-riding concern is to protect human health and the environment,
and to ensure genuine consumer choice," she added.
Former environment secretary Michael Meacher, who originally launched the
trials but has since become a leading critic of GM crops, said the results made a
"decisive" case for banning genetically modified sugar beet and rapeseed.
"In the case of the other, clearly fresh trials now need to be undertaken.
Until that is done there is no environmental case for allowing GM maize," he
told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
The scientific value of the UK trials has been widely recognised by the
biotech industry and GM sceptics, although both sides remain locked in disagreement
over their interpretation.
The Agricultural Biotechnology Council, the industry lobbying group, said
environmental fears that GM crops would wipe out wildlife were scaremongering.
None of the findings supported a ban on GM crops.
Paul Rylott, ABC chairman, said the farm scale evaluations were not "GM on
trial" but confirmed that the technology was a tool that could be used in
different ways, with different outcomes.
"These results confirm what industry has long argued. The flexibility of GM
crops allows them to be grown in a way that benefits the environment...It is
now time to move forward with responsible, case by case introduction of GM crops
to the UK. British farmers and consumers should enjoy the economic benefits
and wider choice that these crops will bring," he said.
Monsanto, the US agrochemicals group, said it remained "absolutely committed"
to introducing GM crops in the UK, despite a decision on Wednesday to close
much of its European seed breeding headquarters in Cambridge.
"Monsanto's announcement [to close its seed business] doesn't affect GM in
any way. They are all conventional crops. Monsanto's GM research is all done in
the [United] States," the company said.
The UK trials were carried out over a three-year period using only
herbicide-tolerant GM crops, not those bred to be insect-resistant. The conclusions over
GM maize may be affected by the proposed European ban on atrazine, the
weedkiller, which was used extensively in the experiment.
There are currently no GM crops being grown in the UK and none have been
cleared for commercial cultivation. Mrs Beckett said the necessary regulatory
approvals could not be granted until next spring at the earliest and would depend
on advice from the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment - a
statutory advisory body.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the AR-News