New study on the spread of genetically altered traits in plants
fears of genetic pollution
Mentmore, 18 December 1997
With the publication of new research in Germany highlighting the dangers
genetic engineering in agriculture, the Natural Law Party has repeated
call for a complete ban on all genetically altered foods since they
great hazards for human health and the environment.
In the German state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), a detailed study
the state's Ministry for Ecology has shown convincingly that herbicide
resistance that has been engineered into oilseed rape is transferred to
normal rape 200 metres away [see article below].
According to London-based independent genetics scientist Dr Michael
Antoniou, "<bold><bigger>This is only the latest in a long list of field
that genetically engineered (GE) crops, once released, are totally
uncontainable. They will become a nightmare for conventional farmers to
control. For farmers who do not want to grow them, such as the organic
sector, these crops will be almost impossible to avoid."
Studies published in Denmark, as well as by the Scottish Crop Research
Institute, have also shown that GE oilseed rape readily cross
not only with non-engineered rape but also with wild weedy relatives
as field mustard and radish). In these studies cross pollination was
up to 2.5 kilometres away.
"This means that herbicide resistant weeds - so-called superweeds -
rapidly appear and spread," Dr Antoniou said. "Once weeds have multiple
resistance genes, which may occur within just a few growing seasons,
will be particularly difficult to control. This will result in greater
dependence and use of agrochemicals, rather than less, as is claimed by
Dr Antoniou also pointed out that "volunteers" (plants which grow from
that has fallen from a crop at the time of harvesting) will also be
herbicide resistant. This will pose a great problem for farmers who
clear volunteers with herbicides before planting the next crop. Warning
the British government
Dr Geoffrey Clements, a physicist and leader of the Natural Law Party
the UK, said that this information should be noted by the British
government ministers who are now considering approving oilseed rape as
first GE crop to be grown commercially in Britain from next spring.
rape is currently the fourth most widely grown crop in Britain.
"The government must listen to the warnings and avoid being driven by
short-term commercial interests," Dr Clements said. "Genetic engineering
a novel, untried, and very inexact science. Already there are numerous
indications of the potential for great damage to the environment and to
human health from genetically engineered foods."
Dr Clements said that in recent decades the promise of cheap power
nuclear energy was soon dashed not only by the astronomical cost of
with nuclear waste but also by the impracticality of storing
ever-increasing quantities of radioactive material. "Those problems
seem insignificant compared to the aftermath of genetic pollution on
planet which will result if the rush to exploit the short-term
profitability of GE crops is not curbed," he remarked.
Dr Clements congratulated the Ministry for Ecology in Niedersachsen, as
well as the Consumers' Association, Friends of the Earth and other
in the UK, who are bringing these issues to the awareness of the public.
also praised The Guardian newspaper for its in-depth coverage of all
issues in its Monday to Thursday editions this week.
"Every single survey has shown that wherever the public is
about the issues, the vast majority are opposed to genetically
foods. Perfectly safe natural alternatives are readily available, and
one believes the propaganda that GE crops are essential to help feed
hungry or to secure food stocks for the future. In fact, if the GE
revolution is not halted and if the balance of Nature continues to be
disrupted, we could well see the worst famines and disease of all
END of press statement
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