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'Disastrous' GM crops have cost US economy £8bn, study claims

The introduction of genetically modified crops in North America has been an "economic disaster", the Soil Association claimed yesterday.

A report on the North American market drawn up by the association, which supports organic farming, said the new crops had cost the United States economy £8bn since 1999. The costs were said to have been caused by contamination of crops, subsidies paid to compensate for low prices and lost trade from manufacturers in Europe that refused GM products – and the complete recall of one product.

Three quarters of the world's GM food is grown in the US and Canada, principally soya and corn. The report's findings were based on interviews with academics, advisers and analysts in North America as well as organic and conventional farmers in the US.

The British Government was accused, meanwhile, of failing sufficently to monitor trials of GM crops in Britain, after it accepted a report comprising just two sentences for year-long trials at 28 sites.

Friends of the Earth said it had written to Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, about the biotech industry monitoring reports that have been accepted by her department. The pressure group said it had been advised that the reports did not meet legal requirements. It consulted lawyers after seeing a copy of the monitoring report submitted by Aventis CropScience Ltd (now Bayer CropScience) about the winter oilseed rape farm scale trials in 2000-01.

The two-sentence report was meant to cover developments at 28 different farm sites over an entire season. The group said that information on the performance of GM crops might be being overlooked.