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2-Plants: GE industry responses on Science HT crop/biodiversity study



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TITLE:  A) Monsanto Company response to European study in Science
           magazine
        B) BIO statement regarding Science report on biodiversity
           and biotech crops
SOURCE: A) Monsanto, USA
        B) Biotechnology Industry Organisation, USA
DATE:   both August 31, 2000

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


Monsanto Company response to European study in Science magazine

European researchers will publish an article in the Sept. 1 edition 
of Science magazine using a theoretical model to suggest that the 
planting of herbicide-tolerant sugar beets could reduce the 
production of weed seed and ultimately decrease bird populations. The 
article claims that herbicide-tolerant crops reduce weeds that 
provide important sources of food for birds, including skylarks.

It is important to understand that this is not an issue of 
biotechnology. It is an issue of weed control, whether through 
biotechnology or other methods. This mathematical model, and any 
conclusions drawn from it, must be viewed with caution, because it 
does not reflect real farming conditions. Most importantly, the study 
ignores the value of weed control to farmers who can lose valuable 
yields and the ability to effectively grow their crops.

When reviewing this model, the following facts should be considered: 
This report describes predictions that are not specifically related 
to biotechnology, but are equally applicable to any agricultural 
practice designed to manage weeds. The use of biotechnology as a 
basis for modeling is irrelevant. It is possible to achieve the same 
level of weed control, and hence the same impact, using traditional 
pesticides, tilling and other methods.

This report is based on a theoretical model that uses basic 
assumptions that are inconsistent with real agricultural practices. 
It is inappropriate and misleading to draw conclusions about the 
natural environment based on a single, non-validated theoretical 
model that employs untested assumptions. Contrary to this theoretical 
report, data from other scientists who have conducted field studies 
on herbicide-tolerant sugar beets has shown that herbicide-tolerant 
plants allow farmers to maintain weeds longer in sugar beet fields, 
which could offer greater resources at a time of year when for birds 
is scarce.

Agricultural practices that improve the yield per acre actually 
prevent additional land from coming under cultivation, preserving the 
best wildlife environments in their natural state and protecting 
indigenous habitats for birds and other wildlife. Furthermore, 
biotechnology crops like herbicide-tolerant crops, promote reduced 
tillage systems which have been proven to improve wildlife habitat 
for species ranging from birds to soil invertebrates. By using 
reduced tillage, there is less soil disturbance and increased food 
supplies that encourage higher densities of bird species in farmers1 
fields.

Herbicide tolerant crops can reduce the number of herbicide 
applications for weed control, often replacing herbicides that can 
have negative environmental effects. In a 2000 study by the National 
Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, researchers showed that U.S. 
soybean growers, for example, had decreased the number of 
applications of active ingredient herbicides by 16 million 
applications, or roughly 20 percent. Weed control is especially 
important in growing sugar beets, as scientists have proven that 
uncontrolled weeds can reduce sugar beet yields by more than 90 
percent.

Finally, sugar beets are grown on a minor percentage of agricultural 
acres. In terms of wildlife habitats, sugar beet fields represent an 
inconsequential amount of habitat compared to more natural 
environments and feeding grounds for birds, including undisturbed 
fields, natural forests and waterways.

                             *****

B) BIO statement regarding Science report on biodiversity and biotech 
crops

WASHINGTON -- Dr. Val Giddings, Vice President for food and 
agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization today issued 
the following statement regarding a paper to be published in the 
September 1 issue of Science titled "Predictions of Biodiversity 
Response to Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant Crops." "This 
report is a purely theoretical model and cannot in any way be 
construed as a real world study. It has everything to do with 
counting weeds, and nothing to do with biotechnology," said Dr. Val 
Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture for the 
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

"The authors sought to determine how weed populations respond to 
effective weed control-a very common agricultural practice that is 
not unique to biotech crops.In fact, farmers routinely strive to gain 
the highest possible crop yields by reducing the number of weeds 
competing for the same natural resources of water, soil nutrients and 
sunlight."

"On the second question, the impact of herbicide resistant crops on 
biodiversity and specifically skylarks, we should consider that 
farmers' concerns for the environment have led to numerous improved 
agricultural practices. Both actual field experience and numerous 
studies have been acknowledged by the National Academy of Sciences 
and the Environmental Protection Agency as showing that crops 
improved through biotechnology lead to greater biodiversity.

"Herbicide-tolerant crops, which are produced through biotechnology 
and other means also promote reduced tillage systems which are proven 
to improve wildlife habitat for species ranging from birds to soil 
invertebrates. By using reduced tillage and leaving plant stubble 
standing in the field, there is less soil disturbance and increased 
food supplies for birds, including song birds."

"In fact, the greatest threat to biodiversity is loss of wildlife 
habitat which is often is converted to low-yield agriculture. 
Technologies such as biotechnology that increase productivity on 
existing cultivated acreage will help meet increasing world food 
demand and reduce pressure to encroach further on wildlife habitat."

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is the world's largest 
organization to serve and represent the biotechnology industry. BIO's 
leadership and service-oriented guidance have helped advance the 
industry and bring the benefits of biotechnology to people 
everywhere. BIO represents more than 900 biotechnology companies, 
academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related 
organizations in all 50 U.S. states and more than 27 other nations. 
BIO members are involved in the research and development of health 
care, agricultural and industrial and environmental biotechnology 
products.






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