12th June 2013Responding to the report in the Independent today that UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will lobby the EU to weaken GM crop regulation (1), GeneWatch UK highlighted that developing and planting GM crops is a poor investment choice for Britain. A new YouGov poll highlighted today that 35 per cent of the public don't want to eat GM foods (2) and a new study found that pigs fed on GM animal feed had inflamed stomachs (3).
"Why should we pour money into developing and growing GM crops for which there is no market?" said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK "The idea that GM crops survive droughts and floods is a fantasy promoted by PR companies, no such GM crops exist despite 30 years of wasted investment in this area. GM crops tolerant to herbicides are bad for the environment, bad for famers and expose consumers to increasing levels of the weedkillers sprayed onto these crops".
The main GM crop entering Britain as animal feed is Roundup Ready GM soya produced by US company Monsanto to be tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate (brand name RoundUp). Herbicide-tolerant GM crops have led to an explosion of herbicide-resistant superweeds in the United States and South America and increased use of weedkillers (4). Similar herbicide-tolerant crops have previously been rejected in the UK due to adverse effects on wildlife found in the Field Scale Evaluations published in 2004. Recent studies have reported adverse effects on Monarch butterflies in the USA associated with the loss of habitat due to blanket spraying with RoundUp (5).
Despite more than 14 thousand field trials conducted in the United States, only herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant (Bt) crops have reached the market (6). This is because GM is a poor tool to create complex traits such as drought-tolerance or increased yield in plants, which are influenced by many different genes. Conventional breeding, which can be speeded up with modern technologies such as genome sequencing, has been much more successful and has provided a high economic return for countries opposed to planting GM crops such as Scotland (7).
For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace 01298-24300 (office): 07903-311584 (mobile)
Notes for Editors:
(1) The Independent, 11th June 2013.: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-the-agricultural-revolution--uk-pushes-europe-to-embrace-gm-crops-8654595.html
(2) Cited in the Independent article. N.B. the first version of this PR incorrectly used a 40% figure from the YouGov Omnibus Poll, May 30 - 31, 2013, which was actually conducted in the USA. On: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/g84ym4mswl/tabs_GMfoods_0530312013.pdf
(3) Carmen et al. (2013) A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet. On: http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf
(4) Benbrook CM (2012) Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24(1):24. http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24
(5) 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. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x/abstract
(6) 14,300 authorised GM field trials were conducted in the USA between 1987 and mid-2008: http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC52545.pdf