www.czu.cz ; www.raupp.info
Carefully timing the weed killer treatment of herbicide-tolerant GM sugar
beet can maximise yields as well as benefiting farmland wildlife, British
scientists report, January 2005.
The researchers believe their findings will have an impact on all those
involved in the debate on GM crops.
Previous studies, including the government's farmscale evaluation trials,
have suggested the treatment would harm wildlife by reducing farmland weeds
which bear seeds and insects on which birds depend during the autumn months.
But in a two-year trial, a team from Broom's Barn Research Station, part of
Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, managed to boost weed seed
availability 16-fold compared with conventional farming methods.
This was achieved by ignoring the manufacturer's instructions on when to
apply the herbicide, director of Broom's Barn Dr John Pidgeon, Dr Mike May
and colleagues explain in the journal, Proceedings B of the Royal Society.
"The new system is extremely simple: compared to the previous GM management
system, it involves applying the first spray fairly early and omitting the
second spray," they said.
Although the crop is unlikely to be grown in the UK in the near future, the
researchers say that farmers will be attracted to a system that maximises
yield and saves money by cutting down herbicide use and spraying frequency.
And the benefits for wildlife "could resolve legitimate concerns about
indirect environmental effects of GM sugar beet on weeds, insects and
birds," they said.
But the Five-Year Freeze Campaign - which is calling for a moratorium on GM
farming and imports - is unconvinced. It argues that the research combines
two approaches, only one of which can be used, which would leave farmland
birds without food at some point during the year.
Campaign director Pete Riley told the BBC: "We doubt that this last ditch
attempt to save GM sugar beet will have much credibility with regulators or
The study was funded by the Association of Biotechnology Companies (ABC),
which represents the GM industry. But the scientists stress the money was
accepted on condition that their findings were published without the ABC's
Posted to Phorum via PhorumMail