English Nature criticises House of Lords GM report

England's statutory nature conservation body, English Nature, on 22 January 1999 attacked the presentation of a Lords Select Committee supporting genetically modified (GM) crops.

English Nature said in a statement that the presentation of the report gave the impression of unqualified support for the benefits of genetically modified crops.

“The environmental risks of GMOs to wildlife and the environment have become increasingly accepted both by the regulators and the informed public. Indeed almost half of the Committee’s recommendations are concerned with broadening and making more rigorous the risk assessment and regulatory process necessary to deal with these risks,” said the statement.

“English Nature cannot understand how, while stressing the need for considerable tightening of the process of research and appraisal before any release of organisms was agreed, the overall message from the report can be that GMOs should go ahead.

“We are very disappointed that this Committee appears to have failed to understand the implications for farmland wildlife of growing genetically modified herbicide tolerant (HT) and insect resistant (IR) crops. They say that these crops may benefit wildlife but there is no scientific evidence from Europe, the US and Canada supporting this.”

“The Committee has completely failed to grasp the point that applying broad spectrum herbicides to HT crops during the growing season will give many more farmers the power to remove all weeds from fields, putting yet more pressure on our already beleaguered wildlife. We are also concerned that IR crops containing insecticides may have serious effects on non-target insect populations, reducing still further the food available to farmland birds.”

“In the past 20 years populations of 10 farmland bird species such as skylark, corn bunting and grey partridge have crashed to an all-time low and we now have strong evidence that a major factor in this decline is the increase in the use and effectiveness of pesticides, including herbicides.”

The report, EC Regulation of Genetic Modification in Agriculture , European Communities Committee 2nd Report 1998/99, HLP 11-I, ISBN 0-10-432199-7 can be accessed via the UK Parliament home page

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