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2-Plants: GE crops create false hope says WWF Canada



----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  Genetic engineering does not yield pesticide reduction
SOURCE: WWF Canada, press release
DATE:   March 7, 2000

-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------
 

Genetic engineering does not yield pesticide reduction

TORONTO - Genetically-engineered (GE) crops cannot be depended on to 
reduce pesticide use, according to a report released today by World 
Wildlife Fund Canada titled "Do Genetically Engineered Crops Reduce 
Pesticide Use? The Evidence Says Not Likely." Working to reduce 
reliance on pesticides in Canada, WWF is concerned that false hopes 
about biotechnology's ability to reduce pesticide use will impede 
progress towards sustainable agriculture.

"Genetic engineering is not a magical short cut to pesticide 
reduction," said Julia Langer, Director of WWF's Wildlife Toxicology 
Program. "The path to pesticide reduction will be paved with reforms 
to the dysfunctional and outdated Pest Control Products Act and 
through strong support for farmers to implement ecological practices."

Biotechnology companies have focused on the genetic engineering of 
major crops such as corn, soybeans, potatoes, cotton and canola, all 
of which are heavily sprayed. Most of the GE crops on the market have 
genes from bacteria inserted into them (transgenic engineering) which 
give crops one of two kinds of new characteristics: either resistance 
to herbicides so that the crop can be sprayed with an herbicide 
without being killed, or the ability to produce toxins of a bacterium 
called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which will kill some insect pests. 
Since pesticides can harm birds, fish, other wildlife, and natural 
enemies of pests, and are also associated with harm to people's 
health, it would be beneficial if GE crops resulted in reduced 
pesticide use.

However, recent US data show that GE crops are not producing such 
reductions. Farmers planting GE crops have often actually increased 
their use of herbicides and insecticides. The WWF report outlines six 
key reasons underlying why genetic engineering does not decrease 
pesticide reliance:
- Herbicide-resistant GE crops often increase the use of the 
  herbicide for which the crop is resistant and, because uncommon
  weeds emerged with the planting of the GE crops, do not necessarily
  reduce the use of other herbicides.
- Transfer of inserted foreign genes from GE crops to related plants 
  will increase weediness, requiring additional sprays to control
  them. This is especially an issue where weeds are closely related
  to the engineered crop, such as canola.
- Bt crops do not necessarily result in reduced spraying of 
  insecticides to control target pests. In fact, more acres of 
  conventional corn are being treated with insecticides than before
  GE corn introduction.
- GE crops will increase resistance of pests to both pesticides and 
  the GE crop itself. This was predicted during the regulatory
  review of GE technologies.
- GE food crops have negative impacts on beneficial insects such as 
  lacewings and ladybugs, which would otherwise help farmers to
  control pests.
- GE crops reinforce poor crop rotation practices which are the real
  key to sustainable pest management. In one analysis, the greater 
  expense of GE seeds and the increased herbicide costs resulted in
  a 50 per cent increase in farmers' weed management costs.

Since GE is not performing according to claims and significant risks 
continue to emerge, including concerns regarding the impact of Bt 
corn on monarch butterflies, WWF concludes that sure-fire ways of 
achieving pesticide reduction, including IPM and organic techniques, 
should be preferentially adopted.

For more information: Julia Langer, Director of Wildlife Toxicology, 
WWF Canada, at (416)-489-4567 ext. 258 or Greg Hamara, Media Manager, 
WWF Canada, at (416)-489-4567 ext. 276.

WWF's report Do Genetically Engineered Crops Reduce Pesticide Use? 
The Evidence Says Not Likely is available in the pressroom of WWF 
Canada's web site at http://www.wwf.ca or by calling WWF at 1-800-26-
PANDA.


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