GeneWatch UK PR: EU approval of new GM crop for import condemned for increasing use of toxic weedkiller

25th April 2015

GeneWatch UK today condemned the approval of a new "second generation" dicamba-tolerant GM crop for import as increasing the use of toxic weedkiller and causing harm to the environment. The approval is for import of Monsanto's genetically modified soybean MON87708 for use in food and feed in the EU. The crop is genetically engineered to survive when the weedkiller dicamba is sprayed on it.

"A pesticide arms race is underway in the United States as first generation GM crops fail due to the spread of superweeds and farmers resort to more toxic weedkillers. Dicamba-tolerant GM crops will increase the use of weedkillers, harming the environment and destroying habitat for wildlife where these crops are grown" said Dr Wallace "This will lead to yet more resistant superweeds, resistant to more weedkillers, and residues from spraying with dicamba will enter the food chain". 

Dicamba-resistant soybeans will be grown in the USA and South America in response to the spread of 'superweeds' which are resistant to the weedkiller glyphosate (brand name RoundUp), used with first-generation RoundUp Ready crops. Blanket spraying of RoundUp Ready crops with weedkiller has led to a 90 percent reduction of the population of the Monarch butterfly in the USA, due to loss of habitat (1). German agrochemical company BASF expects to expand dicamba production by 50 percent for use with the new GM crops (2). This chemical will then be used alongside RoundUp and 2,4-D for spraying a new generation of GM crops. Scientists have warned that dicamba is an older, more toxic herbicide and that spraying can damage other crops through drift (3).

In practice, most retailers in Britain and Europe don't stock foods with GM ingredients, which require labelling. However, imported GM feed, mostly RoundUp Ready soya, is widely used to produce meat and dairy products, where its use is not labelled. 

"The EU should not be importing crops that will damage the environment elsewhere and supermarkets should be requiring their meat and dairy suppliers not to use them" said Dr Wallace "We need clear labels for meat, milk and eggs from animals fed on GM feed so consumers know what they are getting".

Monsanto's dicamba-tolerant GM crop is one of a list of 17 new and re-authorised crops approved for import today by the European Commission (4). The Commission has also published new proposals to allow member states to ban imports of GM crops that have been approved at EU level (5). The EU approvals process does not consider harm to the environment of countries where GM crops are grown. 

For further information contact:

Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile)

Notes for Editors:

(1)    Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America. Center for Food Safety. 5th February 2015.

(2)    BASF to Boost Dicamba Output 50% for New Monsanto Crops. Bloomberg Business. 12th June 2014.

(3)    2,4-D and dicamba-resistant crops and their implications for susceptible non-target crops. Michigan State University. 7th November 2013. ; Information of dicamba toxicity and adverse effects is available on: .

(4)    Commission authorises 17 GMOs for food/feed uses and 2 GM carnations. Brussels, 24 April 2015.

(5)    More freedom for Member States to decide on the GMOs use for food & feed. European Commission. 22nd April 2015.

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