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FoE SCOTLAND PRESS RELEASE - GM POTATOES



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PRESS RELEASE

**********EMBARGO UNTIL: 00.01HRS THURSDAY 4TH MARCH 1999*******


GM CROPS HARMFUL TO WILDLIFE SAYS NEW RESEARCH
Farmer's friends harmed by GM crop 


Friends of the Earth Scotland today reiterated its call for a five year
GM freeze following the publication of research<bold> [1]</bold> which
found potatoes genetically modified to produce a pesticide also harmed
beneficial predator insects such as ladybirds. The research by the
Scottish Crop Research Institute found that when ladybirds were fed
aphids which had fed on the GM potato the ladybirds' lifespan was cut
by half and reproduction was adversely affected. 


Commenting, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, Kevin Dunion
said:
"This research clearly shows that genetic modification can produce
unexpected and unwanted results and supports Friends of the Earth's
concern over the current push to introduce GM crops to our countryside.
This is bad news for those insects often regarded by the farmer as a
natural pest control. Similar impacts upon non-target species by GM
crops could have devastating impacts upon wildlife further up the food
chain. 


"Worryingly, the researchers describe their findings as not even a
'worst case scenario'. Exactly what type of scenario will it take to
make the Government sit up and take notice? We urgently need a
five-year GM-freeze to allow for more similar detailed research to be
undertaken into the true risks from such crops."


The experiments used the same transgenic potatoes as those examined by
Dr Pustzai. The potatoes were genetically modified to include a toxin -
GNA lectin - found in snowdrops to make them resistant to potato
aphids. GNA lectins are being used in GM experiments with grapes,
oilseed rape, potatoes, rice, sweet potato, sugar cane, sunflower,
tobacco, walnuts and tomatoes.


NOTES TO EDITORS:

[1]</bold> 'Tri-trophic interactions involving pest aphids, predatory
2-spot ladybirds and transgeneic potatoes expressing snowdrop lectin
for aphid resistance' A. N. R.Birch.<italic>et al 
</italic><bold>Molecular Breeding 5: 75-83, 1999.


</bold>The research found that "When adult 2-spot ladybirds were fed
for 12 days on peach-potato aphids colonising transgenic potatoes
expressing GNA [for the snowdrop lectin] in leaves, ladybird fecundity,
egg viability and longevity significantly decreased over the following
2-3 weeks. No acute toxicity due to transgenic plants was observed,
although female ladybird longevity was reduced by up to 51%. These
results demonstrate that expression of lectin gene for insect
resistance in a transgenic potato line can cause adverse effects to a
predatory ladybird via aphids in its food chain. The significance of
these potential ecological risks under field conditions need to be
further evaluated."


"The experimental design we have used should not be considered a
transgenic crop 'worst case scenario'..[as]..the transgenic potato line
used was selected as being low expressing for the GNA lectin in follar
tissue....[and]...ladybirds were only exposed to the 'GNA' aphid diet
for 12 days, then all ladybirds were switched to 'optimal' diet."

For more information: Lang Banks on 0131 554 9977 or (pager)
07654 200937


Gill Lacroix
Friends of the Earth Europe
Biotechnology Programme
The United States and its allies "wanted an agreement without any
environmental credibility" : EU Environment Commission Ritt Bjerregaard on
the failure of the Biosafety Protocol negotiations (Financial Times,
25.02.99)  
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