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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 16, 2003
9:19 AM
CONTACT: Friends of the Earth Europe
Adrian Bebb 49 1609 490 1163
Pete Riley 44 771 2843210
London press office 44 207 566 1649
Genetically Modified Crops Damage Wildlife
 
BRUSSELS / LONDON- October 16 - The results released today of some of the biggest and most controversial outdoor trials of genetically modified (GM) crops show that growing GM oilseed rape and beet damages biodiversity.

Friends of the Earth has called for both GM crops to be immediately banned from Europe.

The Farm Scale Evaluations of GM crops were commissioned by the UK Government in 1999 following intense public hostility and concern from its own wildlife advisors about the effects of introducing GM herbicide-resistant traits. The crops trialed were Bayer's oilseed rape, maize and fodder beet, and Monsanto's sugar beet. All crops are genetically modified to be resistant to the companies' own herbicides.

The researchers concluded that growing conventional beet and oilseed rape was better for many groups of wildlife than growing GM varieties. In particular:

* in GM beet fields there were 60% fewer weed seeds, less butterflies and less bees

* in GM oilseed rape there were 80% fewer weed seeds and also less butterflies

They concluded that the widespread introduction of both these crops would lead to birds struggling to find food later in the year. The researchers also concluded that the maize crop might be beneficial for wildlife.

However Friends of the Earth has criticised these trials as they did not represent how farmers would grow maize in practice and compared GM with a weed killer regime that is being withdrawn from Europe.

The biotech industry must legally forward the results of the trials to the European country where they have made an application to market the crop.

For the oilseed rape and sugar beet this is Belgium, the fodder beet Denmark, the sugar beet also Germany and the maize France.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said:

"Companies such as Monsanto and Bayer told the world that their crops were environmentally safe. These trials have shown that this was simply not true. GM oilseed rape and beet cause more damage to the environment than conventional crops. Europe has now no choice but to ban these crops. The protection of the public and the environment must come before the financial interests of the biotech industry."

The full results of the trials can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse/index.htm

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