GeneWatch PR: GM crops harmful to wildlife: another reason to halt commercialisation.

For immediate release - Thursday 16th October, 2003

GeneWatch UK response to publication of the farm-scale evaluation results

The results of the farm-scale evaluations, published today, have shown that if GM herbicide tolerant oilseed rape or sugar beet are grown in the UK, farmland biodiversity is likely to suffer (1). The farm-scale evaluations were commissioned in 1998 as a response to public concerns over the impacts of growing GM crops.

"The UK’s farmland wildlife has been decimated by intensive farming. If we grow herbicide tolerant crops here it may be the final nail in the coffin for some species," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK’s Director. "These results come on top of the economics review which showed there was little economic benefit for the UK, the findings of the public debate showing lack of public support, and new evidence about cross-pollination. It would be foolhardy to proceed with commercialisation."

Previously, the Government’s scientific advisors, ACRE, had said that the GM oilseed rape tested in the farm-scale evaluations "did not pose a risk in terms of human health and environmental safety for the United Kingdom" (2) and the UK Government had agreed to marketing of the oilseed rape, but this was prevented because other European countries opposed it.

"The UK’s scientific advisors had given the GM oilseed rape a clean bill of health in 1997. It was only public opposition that forced more research on environmental effects. The public seem to have a better grasp of science and what lack of knowledge can mean than the ‘experts’,’’ said Dr Mayer. "If the experts’ advice had been followed, we could have been growing this damaging crop in the UK for the past five years. It’s time the scientific establishment took a more rigorous approach to the risks of GM."

GM herbicide tolerant maize was also included in the trials and, although it did not show the same degree of harmful effects to the environment as conventionally grown maize, many questions remain about the long-term impacts of the GM maize and problems of contamination of non-GM maize have not been resolved.

"These results should not be seen as a green light for GM maize. Two unsustainable systems were being compared and experience in the US shows the trials were not representative of what would happen in reality," said Dr Mayer. "And the problem of contamination of non-GM maize may not be resolvable."

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For further information, contact:

Dr Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office) or 07930 308807 (mobile).

Notes to editors:

  1. The results of the farm-scale evaluations are available at
  2. See: Index of public register entries for ‘Notifications to Market GMOs Under Directive 90/220/EEC’, page 22. Reference C/BE/96/01 for GM herbicide tolerant oilseed rape (MS8xRF3). The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) gave its opinion on 19th March 1997 and the Government notified the European Commission that it agreed to marketing on 26th March 1997.

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