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2-Plants: English Nature Clarifies its Position on Genetically Modified Crops

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Date:        15.02  13:58 Uhr
Received:    16.02  13:35 Uhr
From:        jim mcnulty)(by way of genetics <>, jim@niall7.d

Press Release

Issued by English Nature Press Office

English Nature Clarifies its Position on Genetically Modified Crops - 12
February 1999

In the light of recent attention given to English Nature's stance on the
release of Genetically Modified Organisms
(GMOs), we are taking this opportunity to repeat our position.

English Nature has consistently called for a moratorium on the commercial
widespread release of two types of
genetically modified crops. These two types are:

       herbicide tolerant
       insect resistant.

English Nature fears that their release could jeopardise the survival of
farmland wildlife such as skylarks, corn buntings
and grey partridges - species already in substantial decline due to
intensive agriculture.

English Nature acknowledges that the development of GM crops may have the
potential to benefit wildlife and
mankind. However, so far there is no scientific evidence from Europe, the
US or Canada to support these suggested
wildlife benefits.

English Nature wants to see research continue on GM crops in a careful
regulated way, in order to establish what the
effects may be. This research would need to take place in the field and the
results will not be available for 3-4 years. It
is at that point that a decision should be made on widespread release.

English Nature takes no view on the human health aspects of GM foods. Our
remit is to provide advice to Government
on wildlife issues. That advice needs to be based upon sound science, which
is not yet available in relation to the
environmental effects of the widespread release of GMOs.

Following is a copy of a recent letter from English Nature Chairman,
Baroness Young of Old Scone, to the Prime
Minister, which also explains our position in this debate.


The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP Prime Minister 10 Downing Street LONDON 4 February
1999 Our Ref: PO/04.13 &

Dear Prime Minister

Genetically Modified Organisms

In view of the exchange with the Leader of the Opposition at Prime
Minister's Questions yesterday (which surprised
English Nature as much as it surprised you!), I would like to clarify
English Nature's position. English Nature is not
against genetic modification per se and always gives advice based on sound
science. Contrary to what has been
reported, we are not asking for a moratorium on commercial release of all
genetically modified crops. We consider that
there may be potential in some of this technology for producing more
environmentally-friendly crops and better food in
the future, but that this needs further research, proper regulation and
adequate safeguards in use.

We are however very concerned about the effects that introducing herbicide
tolerant crops would have on biodiversity.
These new varieties would give farmers the ability to eliminate wildlife in
crops where they currently cannot easily do
so. This type of genetic modification will make farming even more intensive
and is undesirable in the British
countryside where farming and wildlife must co-exist. We must learn the
lessons from the previous intensification of
agriculture and its disastrous effects on biodiversity.

Our position on the likely effect of herbicide tolerant crops is based on
several pieces of good scientific evidence which
demonstrate that declines in wild plants, insects and birds on agricultural
land is partly due to the use of more efficient
herbicides. More research on this topic has recently been commissioned by
DETR and MAFF, but will not report until
2003 at the earliest. In the light of this scientific evidence, we were
taken aback by the decision of the Advisory
Committee on Releases to the Environment last week to approve the release
of herbicide tolerant rape.

Our advice to government has been that herbicide tolerant crops and insect
resistant crops, not all GM crops, should not
be released commercially until this research has been completed and
assessed by the regulatory system. We welcome
the 12 month voluntary moratorium announced by industry bodies but this
will not give enough time for the research
to be done, which we estimate will take as least three years.

Public concern about GM crops is running high. It is important that English
Nature can be in a position to reassure the
public that the technology is environmentally safe, with decisions being
made on the basis of good environmental
science. We cannot assure the public about this currently.

I would be happy to brief you further if this would be helpful.

Best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Baroness Young of Old Scone Chairman

Statement issued by English Nature Press Office


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