GM crops threaten wildlife, official scientific review decides
Sunday 20 July 2003
The widespread planting of GM crops in Britain could severely damage wildlife such as birds and insects, an expert scientific review will warn tomorrow.
An inquiry chaired by Professor Sir David King, the Prime Minister's chief scientific adviser, will endorse fears that growing some types of herbicide-resistant GM crops could have a significant impact on the countryside.
Some GM crops being considered for Britain, such as sugar beet and oilseed rape, are designed to survive the use of so-called "broad spectrum" herbicides that wipe out other weeds and plants.
But that would threaten wildlife, such as skylarks which feed on the "fat-hen" weed growing in sugar beet fields, creating the "green deserts" feared by many naturalists. "This is perhaps the most serious potential harm," the report says.
The warning will be one of the strongest conclusions from an exhaustive "science review" being published by Professor King tomorrow, which will also state that current GM foods are safe to eat.
Because of the perceived threat to wildlife, Professor King's committee will write an up-date report after the results of trials into GM maize, beet and oilseed rape come out in September.
The report also suggests that a new generation of weedkiller-resistant superweeds could be created in the future unless the Government and farming regulators are extremely careful about where and when different GM crops are used.
But it says this risk - based on the fear that GM genes which are resistant to different weedkillers could "stack up" in weeds - is only likely to arise in five to 10 years and only if GM crops become widespread in Britain.
At present, because few GM crops are likely to be planted in Britain due to public hostility, the risk of creating superweeds is seen as low.
But the document, agreed late last week by a panel of 24 leading scientists, biotech industry executives and naturalists, is likely to disappoint many anti-GM campaigners and environmentalists. It is understood to be more neutral and non-committal about the potential problems than a critical report on the economic value of GM crops released by the Prime Minister's Strategic Policy Unit earlier this month.
It will also say that GM crops should be planted in the UK, and licensed on a case-by-case basis.
The Downing Street document, which suggested there was little short-term economic or consumer advantage to planting GM crops, has led Tony Blair to substantially rethink his pro-GM stance. He is now said to be more cautious about supporting the commercial planting of GM crops in Britain.
Woodpecker and weasel: This is what the photographer has to say about the incredible picture
At long last, Australia is able to halt the relentless advance of the cane toad
The ugliest animals on earth: Blobfish, axolotl and proboscis monkey battle it out to be named least attractive beast
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 4 African jawbone discovery pushes birth of humanity back by 400,000 years
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...
£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales / Account Manager is re...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Software Application Developer (C# & ASP.Net, SQL S...