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TITLE:  Long-term monitoring needed of impact of GM crops on environment
SOURCE: The Royal Society, UK, Media Release
        http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news/
DATE:   May 27, 2003

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Long-term monitoring needed of impact of GM crops on environment

The Government needs to introduce long-term monitoring of the ecological
impact of GM crops if commercial planting goes ahead in the UK, according
to a Royal Society policy statement published today (27 May 2003).

In submissions to the Government-sponsored GM Science Review, the Royal
Society calls for the Government to review its mechanisms through which
GM crops are monitored in the environment and to produce plans for long-
term assessments that must be taken into account by both UK and EU regulators.

Professor Patrick Bateson, Vice-President and Biological Secretary of the
Royal Society, said: "We advised the Government almost five years ago
that it needed to carry out a review of the way in which the
environmental impact of GM crops is monitored in the long-term, but it
still hasn't taken the necessary action. We are glad to see that the
Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment is now getting to grips
with this issue."

He added: "If the decision is taken to allow commercial planting of GM
crops, it is essential that regulators in both the UK and EU monitor the
environmental impact to pick up any potentially beneficial or harmful
effects over a long period. It will not be enough to make best estimates
at the start and then assume that everything will turn out as expected."

The submissions also recommend that the GM Science Review Panel should be
given the opportunity to consider formally the results of the GM Farm
Scale Evaluations, which are being considered for publication in the
scientific journal 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society:
Biological Sciences'.

Professor Bateson said: "Although the Review Panel is due to deliver its
report in June, it would make a great deal of sense for its members to
also look at the results of the farm scale trials if, as is expected,
they are published later in the year. These trials are the largest scale
field study of how particular types of GM crop affect wildlife, and the
Review Panel should make recommendations to Government in the light of
this research."

The submissions draw attention to potential benefits that GM crops could
deliver worldwide if used appropriately. Professor Bateson said: "There
are many crucial decisions to be made concerning the use of GM crops by
private corporations, governments and individuals that will affect the
future of humanity and the planet's natural resources. It is vital that
these decisions are based on the best scientific information."

He added: "Over the next decade, biotechnology will aim to improve the
nutritional qualities of crops and farming performance by focusing on
characteristics such as yield and stress tolerance. GM technology may
therefore help to meet the demand for food by an expanding world
population, with less impact on the environment. It is clear, however,
that continued development and evaluations of GM technology will be
required to realise these potential benefits."

For further information contact: Bob Ward or Rebecca Wynn Press and
Public Relations The Royal Society, London. Tel: 020 7451 2516/2514 or
07811-320346 Email: press@royalsoc.ac.uk 


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