GM Crop Results Spun Both Ways

UK's landmark trials misrepresented by industry and campaigners, Royal Society says.

Stephen Pincock(Stephen@biomedcentral.com)
Nov 24, 2003

Campaigners opposed to the release of genetically modified (GM) crops and the GM industry have both misrepresented the results of Britain's farm scale evaluations (FSEs) of such crops, which were published last month, according to the president of the Royal Society.

Robert May said today (November 25) the experiments demonstrated that GM crops “may be applied in ways that are better for biodiversity than conventional practices, or alternatively may be used to further intensify agriculture with a corresponding negative effect on farmland wildlife.”

He was speaking ahead of a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) about the research, to which the Royal Society has made a submission.

“To generalize and declare 'all GM is bad' or 'all GM is good' for the environment as a result of these experiments is a gross oversimplification, but statements from both sides in the GM...

Instead, the results should stimulate a debate about the future of modern agriculture, he said.

The results of the trials are already reverberating across Europe. ACRE is holding two open meetings to take evidence from experts and stakeholders about the implications of the FSEs for the United Kingdom, in London today and in Edinburgh on December 4.

The FSEs tested the impact on farmland biodiversity of cultivating three different GM herbicide-resistant crops—sugar beet, maize, and autumn-sown oilseed rape. The results showed that the weed killers used determined the effect on the biodiversity of a particular agricultural system, according to the Royal Society.

May added that the United Kingdom should decide what sort of agricultural future it wants: “Do we want an agricultural system that depends on the development of evermore powerful weed killers to increase yields, but which also has a negative impact on biodiversity?”