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Friends of the Earth Europe
PRESS RELEASE
20th May 1999
For immediate distribution


BAN GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS NOW!
AMERICAN RESEARCH PROVES THREAT TO BIODIVERSITY SAY FRIENDS OF THE EARTH

Studies carried out by scientists at Cornell University in the United
States(1) proves without doubt that genetically modified crops pose a
potentially lethal threat to wildlife, say Friends of the Earth.  The
research, findings of which are reported in this week's issue of "Nature"
magazine(2), shows that nearly half of the larvae of Monarch butterfly fed
with leaves dusted with pollen from genetically modified (GM) maize died
within a few days.  Three sample populations of larvae were used in the
experiments.  All three were fed on the caterpillar's normal food plant,
milkweed, but the first sample was fed on milkweed with no pollen, the
second on weed dusted with ordinary pollen, and the third on weed dusted
with pollen from Bt maize(3) .  After four days, the larvae in the first
two sample populations were normal whereas 44% of the larvae in the third
sample had died, while the remainder exhibited stunted growth.

According to Friends of the Earth (FoE), the European Union can no longer
continue to ignore the increasing evidence that genetically modified crops
are a serious risk to biodiversity.  "FoE has been saying for years that Bt
plants are not an ecological solution to pest control.  They can produce
toxin in all parts of the plant, including pollen which can be spread over
a wide area, and therefore adversely affect benign and beneficial insects,
as this research demonstrates only too clearly" said Gill Lacroix of FoE
Europe's Biotechnology Programme.  "The European Union (EU) should take
immediate action to stop commercial planting of GM maize in Europe now(4) .
 There is no benefit of such crops either for consumers or the environment,
but rather a very significant risk.  The Commission's own White Paper on
Biodiversity(5)  - which seems to have sunk without trace - stated that
biodiversity is decreasing faster than ever before and that up to 24% of
species of butterflies, birds and mammals in some European countries are
nationally extinct.  This research shows that the introduction of
genetically crops can only make that already dire situation even worse".

More info:
Gill Lacroix, T. 32-2-542.0182
Dan Leskien, T. 49-40.431.897.66

(1) Department of Entemology, Cornell University, USA.
(2) "Transgenic pollen harms Monarch larvae", Nature magazine, 20 May 1999.
(3)  Bt maize has been genetically modified to insert a gene from Bacillus
thuringiensis, which produces an insect-killing toxin in genetically
modified plants.
(4)  Genetically modified Bt maize varieties produced by the companies
Novartis and Monsanto are authorized for cultivation in the European Union.
(5) "Communication of the European Commission to the Council and to the
Parliament on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy", COM(98) 42,
4.02.98.


Gill Lacroix
Friends of the Earth Europe
Biotechnology Programme
"I am utterly convinced that the tests currently conducted before placing
GMOs on the market are inadequate."  Corinne Lepage, former Environment
Minister of France.
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