Farming: Crops Could Contaminate Even Nominally GM-Free Wales

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

Farming: Crops Could Contaminate Even Nominally GM-Free Wales


Byline: Steve Dube

NEW evidence on contamination from genetically modified crops shows they could affect Wales even if the country remains nominally GM-free.

Maps published by Friends of the Earth Cymru suggest that allowing GM oil seed rape to be commercially grown in Britain will lead to widespread GM contamination.

The maps show that closely related species like the wild turnip and wild cabbage, which are known to cross pollinate with the arable crop, are widespread across the country.

That means cross-breeding will be almost inevitable if GM oil seed rape is grown practically anywhere in the UK.

Some scientists fear that allowing GM oilseed rape to be grown in the UK could lead to herbicide-tolerant genes and other traits escaping into the wild plant relatives.

This could lead create herbicide tolerant superweeds, creating weed control problems for farmers and problem weeds in wildlife habitats.

Others, such as Dr Denis Murphy of the Biotechnology Unit at the University of Glamorgan, admit the possibility, but argue that GM crops would make no overall difference to farming or the environment and that a ban is not feasible after EU approval.

In a report published last week, Dr Murphy said GM crops could enable farmers to implement environmentally friendly practices like zero-tilling or integrated weed management in their fields.

But he concedes that they might lead to the emergence of herbicide tolerant weeds if they out-crossed with weed relatives, while the use of biotech crop varieties may increase likelihood of herbicide resistant insects.

The high risk that conventional crops and wild species could be contaminated by GM crops is emerging as the most significant argument against the technology.

FoE Cymru director Julian Rosser said the research showed every area of Wales could be affected by cross contamination between GM oilseed rape and its wild relatives.

Mr Rosser said people across Wales felt that GM crops should be kept out until there is more evidence that they are safe for human health and the environment.

Recently published research showed high levels of cross-pollination between GM oilseed rape and wild turnip in a GM experimental plot in Humberside, where 46% of seeds in a wild turnip plant were found to be genetically modified.

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