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Monsanto's field trials

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Genetic Concern accuses Monsanto of misleading farmers about its sugar beet

Recent reports from Monsanto on its 4 field trials of Roundup-Ready sugar
beet have suggested that yields may be higher than conventional crops, and
herbicide use is lower.  However Genetic Concern have accused Monsanto of
distorting the reality which many farmers in the US are experiencing with GM

According to spokesperson Sadhbh O' Neill, 'this is purely a publicity stunt
which is designed to mislead farmers and avoid the truth about the impacts
of GM crops on farming and the environment.'

O' Neill stated, 'results from Monsanto's Irish field trials are meaningless
because the sugar beet was sown too late and harvested too early. In any
case, in the US where the crops have been grown commercially for some years
now, most research is showing that, at best, there is no significant yield
increase from GM varieties, and  at worst, GM varieties of many crops are
easily outperformed by their conventional counterparts.'

An analysis of USDA data on benefits of GE crops by Jane Rissler of the
Union of Concerned Scientists shows that far from delivering higher yields
and reduced herbicide usage, farmers in the US have experienced mixed
results [1].

The data reveal a mixed picture of benefits from crops engineered to control
pests. Genetically engineered crops may result in reduced pesticide use
and/or increased yields. But in the majority of crops and regions surveyed,
there are no statistically significant differences in pesticide use or yield
between engineered and non-engineered varieties. In one case, pesticide use
increased on the engineered crop and in another case, yield declined in the
engineered varieties.

Research conducted by the University of Wisconsin into yield comparisons in
12 US states has indicated that far from increasing yields, Monsanto's
variety of GM soyabean resulted in yield reductions of around 4% [2]. The
researchers Mark Lappé and Britt Bailey found that for 30 out of 38
varieties grown in the US, the conventional soyabean outperformed the
transgenic soyabean. This represents a yield drop of around 10% from the
transgenic varieties [3].

Furthermore, Genetic Concern has always insisted that Monsanto's Irish field
trials are an inadequate process to establish the environmental impacts of
GM crops as they only test for plant efficacy under climatic and soil
conditions. There is no rigorous modelling of the total and long term
effects of replacing specific herbicides with a broad spectrum herbicide
such as glyphosate or Roundup.

In the case of herbicides, plants genetically engineered to be resistant to
powerful broad-spectrum herbicides may result in a lower volume of herbicide
use. The problem is that such comparisons are far too simplistic. Comparing
broad-spectrum herbicides such as Roundup with other specific herbicides is
not comparing like with like. From an environmental point of view, the
wide-spread use of these more powerful herbicides will have a devastating
effect on biodiversity, because they destroy all plants other than the crop.

Other research has shown that repeated applications of a single herbicide
encourage plants to become resistant very quickly. According to O' Neill,
'comparing Roundup-Ready crops with conventional sugar beet in terms of
herbicide usage is too simplistic, and fails to take the long-term impacts
on a farm ecosystem into consideration'.

Dr. Paul Dowding, lecturer in Botany at Trinity College Dublin has said that
such a system of agriculture would lead to the conversion of Ireland into a
"green desert" with only the desired crop left in the field, No ground-weeds
would be left to support the myriad of life that normally exists in the


Further information: Sadhbh O' Neill at 01-4760360 or Quentin Gargan at


[1] The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), Genetically Engineered Crops
for Pest Management.

[2] Anderson, Luke; Genetic Engineering, Food and our Environment,  p.45

[3] Ibid. p.45-6

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Dublin 2
Tel: +353 1 476 0360
Fax: +353 1 476 0361
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