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The world's biggest study to date on the impact of genetically modified
(GMO) crops on wildlife found birds and bees are more likely to thrive in
fields of natural rapeseed than GMO seed, scientists said, March 2005.
But scientists behind the British study were keen to stress the
differences between the two arose not because the crop was genetically
engineered but because of the way pesticides were applied. "The study
demonstrates the important of the effects of herbicide management on
wildlife in fields and adjacent areas," researcher David Bohan said.
Green groups, however, were aghast. "These results are yet another major
blow to the biotech industry. Growing GM winter oilseed rape would have a
negative impact on farmland wildlife," Friends of the Earth campaigner Clare
Oxborrow said. The trial was the last in a four-part 5.5 million-pound ($9.5
million) test of controversial technology ? the largest experiment of its
kind in the world.
Scientists said that when compared with conventional winter-sown rapeseed,
GMO herbicide-resistant plants kept the same number of weeds overall, having
more grass weeds but fewer broad-leaved weeds. Flowers of broad-leaved weeds
provide food for insects, while their seeds are an important food source for
Researchers said that while fields planted with the biotech version were
found to have fewer butterflies and bees, differences arose not because the
crop was genetically-changed but because of the way they were sprayed.
In October 2003, the same government trials found that GMO sugar beet
spraying was significantly more damaging to the environment than the
management of conventional varieties. They also concluded that gene-spliced
spring-sown rapeseed may also have a negative impact on wildlife, while GMO
feed maize did not.
"GMO crops are better": The biotech lobby insist the crops are safe. "GM
crops offer a better, more flexible weed management option for farmers and,
as the results today indicate, the difference between the impact of growing
GM and non-GM crops on biodiversity is minimal," Tony Combes, deputy
chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, which represents biotech
firms like Monsanto and Syngenta . Despite optimism from proponents of the
technology, GMO crops seem a long way off in Britain. Last year, the only
firm to win approval to grow a GMO crop in Britain.
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