Study of GM Crops Finds Impacts on Wildlife
(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2005) Birds and bees are more likely to thrive in fields of natural rapeseed than genetically modified (GM) seed, according to a new study. The 10-million-dollar British study, called the Farm Scale Evaluation (FSE) trials, is the world's largest study to date of the impacts of GM crops on biodiversity. Over the course of the experiment, scientists counted one million weeds, two million insects and made 7,000 field trips, reported Inter Press Service. "This is a bloody good piece of science and will have a huge impact in its subject area for a long time to come," said Chris Pollock, chair of the FSE scientific steering committee in a statement.
The fourth and final report in the four-year study, which was released this week, found that fields that were planted with winter canola (oilseed rape) that was genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant had fewer bees, birds, butterflies and other insects than fields planted with conventional canola. Scientists behind the study explained that the differences between the two arose not because the crop was genetically engineered but because of the way that pesticides were applied. Researcher David Bohan said that, "The study demonstrates the important of the effects of herbicide management on wildlife in fields and adjacent areas," reported The Daily Times.
Scientists said that when compared with conventional winter-sown rapeseed, GMO herbicide-resistant plants kept the same number of weeds overall, having more grass weeds but fewer broad-leaved weeds. Flowers of broad-leaved weeds provide food for insects, while their seeds are an important food source for other wildlife.
Environmental groups see the study as a confirmation that GM farming has negative environmental effects. "These results are yet another major blow to the biotech industry. Growing GM winter oilseed rape would have a negative impact on farmland wildlife," Friends of the Earth campaigner Clare Oxborrow said.
In October 2003, the same British government trials found that spraying of GMO sugar beets was significantly more damaging to the environment than management of conventional varieties. They also concluded that gene-spliced spring-sown rapeseed may also have a negative impact on wildlife, although GMO feed maize did not. (See Daily News, 10/24/03)
TAKE ACTION: To learn more about genetically engineered crops, and their effect on health and the environment, see Beyond Pesticides' Genetic Engineering Program Page. You can help protect our land and food from genetically engineered ingredients and crops by buying USDA certified organic products. Lobby your supermarket to label GM food, and support local efforts to prohibit growing GM crops.