GM crops threaten wildlife, official scientific review decides

A A A

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee