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Largest GM study concludes they harm wildlife { March 22 2005 }

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GM crops harm environment: study
From correspondents in London
March 22, 2005

From: Agence France-Presse
THE largest study conducted on genetically modified (GM) crops has concluded they can harm wildlife.

The findings set the stage for a fight in Britain over whether to allow farmers to cultivate bio-engineered crops.
The final trial in a four-year study compared GM winter-sown oilseed rape to its conventional non-GM equivalent.

It 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 final of four major farm-scale trials overseen by the Britain's Environment and Rural Affairs ministry's Scientific Steering Committee.

The trials took four years to conduct, involved the collection of one million weeds and two million bugs, and cost about 6 million ($15 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 serious public hostility.

"These results are yet another major blow to the biotech industry," Clare Oxborrow, the GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said.

"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."

Britain's junior Environment Minister Elliot Morley described the study as "the biggest of its kind conducted anywhere in the world".

He 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.

German company Bayer CropScience was given the greenlight in March 2004 to cultivate Chardon LL but the company backed down from its plan weeks later, calling it "economically non-viable".

The decision followed a survey showing that an overwhelming 90 per cent of the British public were against GM crops.

Even though the Chardon LL was only approved for animal consumption, some critics voiced fears it could be indirectly absorbed by humans through cow's milk.

Bayer said at the time it was scrapping its plans due to tough government-imposed conditions on the GM maize production.

In Europe, the growing of GM crops on a significant scale takes place only in Spain, which has 32,000ha set aside for GM maize.

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GM crops harm environment study says { March 23 2005 }
GM crops harm wildlife says UK government study { March 22 2005 }
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Largest GM study concludes they harm wildlife { March 22 2005 }
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