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GM crops harm environment study says { March 23 2005 }

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GM crops harm environment, finds British govt study
Posted online: Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 0046 hours IST

London, March 22 The largest study ever conducted on genetically-modified (GM) crops has concluded they can harm wildlife, setting the stage for a fight in Britain over whether to allow farmers to cultivate bio-engineered crops.

The last trial in a four-year study, published on Monday, compared GM Winter-sown oilseed rape to its conventional non-GM equivalent, and found that in GM fields there were fewer seeds, bees and butterflies.

The rapeseed, like many other GM crops designed by agro-industrial corporations, is designed to resist herbicide so that farmers can use a broad spectrum of powerful weedkillers.

In the GM crop’s fields there were also fewer broad-leaved weeds — considered important because they feed insects —even though there were some grass weeds and soil insects remaining.

The results were the last of four major farm-scale trials overseen by the environment and rural affairs ministry’s scientific steering committee, which took four years, involved the collection of one million weeds and two million bugs, and cost about $11 million.

Environmental groups immediately hailed the findings as proof that GM crops were harmful to the environment and should be banned in Britain, where they face major public hostility.

These results are yet another major blow to the biotech industry,” said Clare Oxborrow, the GM campaigner for friends of the earth. “Growing GM Winter oilseed rape would have a negative impact on farmland wildlife,” she said.

An advocate at Britain’s Soil Association, which oversees organic farming standards, also denounced the results as “damning” for the GM industry.

“They show that (the GM crop) would seriously exacerbate the decline of farmland wildlife — especially plants and birds,” Gundula Azeez said.

“To reverse this decline, the government needs to seriously look at farming without chemicals.”

Environment junior minister Elliot Morley described the study as “the biggest of its kind conducted anywhere in the world” and said it affirmed the government’s “precautionary” policy of making “case-by-case decisions” on whether to approve GM crops.

In two of the other three trials — involving spring-sown oilseed rape, beet and maize — whose results were published in October 2003, conventional crops were again found to be better for many groups of wildlife. But the third trial that a kind of herbicide-resistant GM maize was fit for cultivation — if only for animal consumption.


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GM crops harm environment study says { March 23 2005 }
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