GeneWatch UK PR: Second-generation GM crops: an environmental disaster

16th October 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today approved Dow Chemical's new "Enlist Duo" weedkiller, containing a combination of RoundUp and 2,4-D for use on the second generation of GM crops. GM maize and soybeans resistant to Enlist will be planted next year in the United States and blanket sprayed with the new combined weedkiller, increasing environmental harm and introducing increased residues of pesticides into the food chain (1). These GM crops are likely to be imported to the UK next year for use in animal feed.

RoundUp Ready GM crops resistant to Monsanto's weedkiller RoundUp have led to a catastrophic decline in Monarch butterfly populations in the USA, due to loss of habitat, and to the spread of superweeds resistant to RoundUp across half of US farms (2,3). 2,4-D is a more toxic weedkiller, used as one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, and US farmers are concerned about its drift onto other crops (4). The production of GM crops resistant to 2,4-D is a response to RoundUp-resistant superweeds, which can be killed by introducing a new weedkiller, but its use will inevitably also lead to 2,4-D-resistant superweeds in the longer term (5). Following today's EPA approval, plantings of second-generation GM crops will begin in the USA next year and plantings in South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina are likely to follow.

"These second-generation GM crops will exacerbate harm to wildlife through habitat destruction, leave toxic residues of pesticides in the food chain, and worsen the superweed problem in the longer term," said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK.

GM crops enter Europe mainly for use in animal feed, following an EU approvals process. Most UK supermarkets, except Waitrose, have back-tracked from commitments to avoid the use of GM animal feed (6). Meat, milk and eggs produced using GM feed are not labelled.

"Unless supermarkets act now to secure GM-free-fed meat, milk and eggs for all their customers, British consumers will be contributing unwittingly to an environmental disaster in the United States and South America" said Dr Wallace "UK and EU supermarkets should ban the use of 2,4-D GM crops in their supply lines".

For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace: 07903-311584 07903-3115(mobile)

Notes for editors
(1) The Feds Just Approved a New GMO Corn. Here's Why I'm Not Rejoicing. Mother Jones. 15th October 2014.
(2) Monarch Butterflies Have Declined 90 percent; Conservationists Seek Extra Protection. Newsweek. 27th August 2014 ; Pleasants JM, Oberhauser KS (2013) Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity 6(2):135-144.
(3) New Generation of GM Crops Puts Agriculture in a 'Crisis Situation'. 25th September 2014. ; Escalating the weed wars.LA Times. 29th September 2014.
(4) TestBiotech, GeneWatch UK, Pesticide Action Network report: The risks of the herbicide 2,4-D. 27th January 2014.
(5) Mortensen, D. A., Egan, J. F., Maxwell, B. D., Ryan, M. R., & Smith, R. G. (2012). Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management. BioScience, 62(1), 75-84.
(6) M&S, Co-op and Sainsbury's say chickens will be fed on GM soya. The Observer. 11th May 2013.

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