GeneWatch PR: GM Herbicide-Tolerant Oilseed rape: Belgian Adivce Means European Ban Likely.

For immediate release: 29th January 2004

Yesterday, the Belgian Biosafety Council has stated that the UK's farm-scale evaluations of GM crops show that growing GM herbicide tolerant oilseed rape would be bad for farmland wildlife (1). They also said that management plans to reduce the likelihood of harm would be ‘impracticable, hardly workable and hard to control in current agricultural practices..' .

Belgium is the lead country considering whether to allow the growing of the GM oilseed rape in Europe. Now the Belgian Environment and Health Ministers will decide whether to reject the application from the biotechnology company, Bayer, or whether to forward the proposal to other member states. The industry has been trying to persuade the Belgians that guidelines to control how the herbicide is used with the GM crop would limit the harm, despite a lack of any evidence to support the claim (2).

"If the Belgian Ministers listen to their advisors, this should be the end of the road for GM herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape in Europe" said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director. "Our farmland birds would be able to breathe a sigh of relief that this is one threat they will not face. The evidence is clear, and we urge the Belgian Ministers to act as European regulations and the public demand'.

Further Information:

Please contact Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office) or 07930 308807 (mobile)

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Belgian Biosafety Council is the Belgian Government's advisory committee on GMOs. Its remit includes those areas covered by the Advisory Committee on Release to the Environment (ACRE) in the UK. Their advice is available at:
  2. The farm-scale evaluations of GM herbicide tolerant crops were intended to investigate the effects of growing these crops on farmland wildlife. The researchers and scientific steering committee concluded in relation to oilseed rape and beet that:
    • Growing GMHT beet and spring oilseed rape on a large-scale may disadvantage wildlife, particularly farmland birds, bees and butterflies…
    • Growing GMHT beet and spring oilseed rape on a large-scale may exacerbate long-term declines of flowering weeds, including those that are important food resources for seed-eating birds.(Burke, M (2003) for Farmscale Evaluations Research Team and Scientific Steering Committee GM crops. Effects on farmland wildlife).
  3. Commission guidance on the risk assessment process under the Deliberate Release Directive (2001/18) requires that risk management measures must be effective in practice not only theoretical. It states that: "To reduce the risk by management, the measures should clearly achieve that end".

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