UK nature body calls for freeze on gene crops
By Jill Serjeant
LONDON, July 8 (Reuters) - The British government's wildlife advisory body on
Wednesday called for a three-year moratorium on the commercial growing of
genetically modified crops, saying they could pose a serious risk to wildlife.
In a statement reflecting growing concern in Britain about the new food
technology, English Nature said more research was needed on the effects on
such crops on insects and birds that live on farmland and on the possibilities
of cross-pollination into other crops.
"More research is needed and existing research needs to be completed before we
can have a better idea of the possible effects of genetically modified
organisms on our already hard-pressed wildlife," said spokesman Brian Johnson.
"The environmentally untested introduction of genetically modified organisms
could be the final blow for species like the skylark, the linnet and corn
bunting," he added.
Britain has about 300 experimental sites growing genetically modified (GM)
crops but more than 30 have been dug up or damaged by aggrieved environmental
Prince Charles, himself an organic farmer, fuelled the debate last month with
a warning that genetic engineering "takes mankind into realms that belong to
God and to God alone."
According to an opinion poll last month, 77 percent of Britons want GM crops
banned and 61 percent do not want to eat GM food.
Multinational agro-chemical giant Monsanto has launched a one million pound
($1.6 million) advertising campaign in a bid to persuade Britons that crops
which have been genetically altered to make them resistant to weeds and
insects are not only safe to eat but provide a practical way of increasing the
world's food supplies.
"These products have been tested and grown for 20 years. They are evaluated by
seven scientific committees and four government departments in Britain," a
Monsanto spokesman said.
Monsanto said its experience showed a wider diversity of wildlife in fields
growing GM crops than those where pesticides were used.
"We feel strongly that this report by English Nature is not justified by any
scientific facts. How can biotechnology do more harm to wildlife than
traditional farming practices using chemicals," said the Monsanto spokesman.
English Nature said it was not against trials of GM crops but was concerned
that they were not being properly regulated.
Its call for a moratorium on commercial growing was backed by Friends of the
Earth, which is concerned about the possible effects of cross-pollination from
test sites to organic farms.
"How are conventional farmers and organic farmers going to survive if there is
a smog of genetic pollution across the countryside? How can they grow normal
crops if genetic material is passing from one crop to another," said Friends
of the Earth spokesman Robin Maynard.
"This technology has been forced by commercial pressures much faster onto the
market than research suggest it should be. We are not taking the cautionary
approach," Maynard said.
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command