GENET archive


2-Plants: New GM sugar beet management systems give wildlifebenefits

                                  PART I
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SOURCE: Broom's Barn Research Station, UK
DATE:   19 Jan 2005

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In research published today 1 , scientists from 2 conclusively show how
to use GM herbicide tolerant (GMHT) crop technology for environmental
benefit. The authors suggest that the new crop management approaches they
have demonstrated could resolve legitimate concerns about indirect
environmental effects of GM sugar beet on weeds, insects and birds. Dr
John Pidgeon, director of Broom's Barn comments that "This work adds a
new perspective to future discussions about the benefits from GMHT sugar
beet that the public, environmentalists and farmers should all be
interested in".

To obtain wildlife benefits in spring, the authors have improved timing
of herbicide application to maximise both crop yields and the benefits
from leaving weeds between crop rows. Maximising yields removes barriers
to farmer up-take. However, autumn environmental benefits are more
important, as autumn weeds provide seeds for bird food and for recharging
weed seedbanks. The paper demonstrates a system that gives maximum crop
yield AND increased weed seed availability (up to 16 fold), compared to
previous GM or conventional management systems tested in the government's
recent Farm Scale Evaluation trials. The new system is extremely simple
in comparison, it involves applying the first spray fairly early and
omitting the second spray - making additional cost and pesticide savings
on top of the already large savings compared to conventional practice.

Mike May Tel: 01284 812230,
John Pidgeon Tel: 01284 812201
Elspeth Bartlet Tel: 01582 763133 ext 2260

Notes to editors:
1. Management of genetically modified herbicide tolerant sugar beet for
spring and autumn environmental benefit by: Mike J. May, Gillian T.
Champion, Alan M. Dewar, Aiming Qi and John D. Pidgeon. In Proceedings B
of the Royal Society.
2. Brooms Barn Research Station is part of Rothamsted Research (http://, one of the largest agricultural research
institutes in the country, which is sponsored by the BBSRC.
3. This work was funded in 2001 and 2002 by the Agricultural
Biotechnology Council, under a legal agreement that ensures that Broom's
Barn Research Station can publish results in full with no restrictions or
prior consultation with the Companies. Since 2002, Broom's Barn has
received no further funding from ABC.

The paper describing the work is available for viewing on the The Royal
Society's web site

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  UK Study Says GMO Sugar Beet Can Benefit Wildlife
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   20 Jan 2005

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UK Study Says GMO Sugar Beet Can Benefit Wildlife

LONDON - Genetically modified (GMO) sugar beet could boost the
environment if accompanying weedkillers are sprayed correctly, a study
published by the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of science,
showed on Wednesday.

The authors of the report, who are based at Britain's Broom's Barn
research station, said timing was key.

"The new system is extremely simple. Compared to the previous GM
management system, it involves applying the first spray earlier and
omitting the second spray," the researchers said.

The authors of the two-year study suggest that concerns raised about the
effects of GMO sugar beet on weeds, insects and birds could be resolved
by new crop management techniques.

Government-backed research published in 2003 found that GMO sugar beet
spraying was significantly more damaging to the environment than the
management of conventional varieties.

It concluded that gene-spliced rapeseed may also have a negative impact
on wildlife, while GMO maize did not.

However, this latest study suggests that weed seed for bird food
increased by up to 16-fold in the autumn, and that the timing of spraying
in the spring had also helped to maximise crop yields.

"This work adds a new perspective to future discussions about obtaining
the benefits from this specific GM crop that the public,
environmentalists and farmers could all be interested to exploit to
benefit the countryside," John Pidgeon, director of Broom's Barn
research, said.


But opponents of the controversial technology were wary, not least
because the study was funded by the Association of Biotechnology
Companies (ABC), a consortium of pro-biotech firms, but also because of
the methods used.

"The choices offered by GM sugar beet cropping appear to offer farmland
birds three options: insufficient food throughout the year, early season
food or autumn food. This is bad news for resident birds which need food
all year round," Pete Riley of anti-GMO group 'Five Year Freeze' said in
a statement.

"We doubt that this last ditch attempt to save GM sugar beet will have
much credibility with regulators or growers," Riley added.

GMO crops are a thorny issue in Britain, where consumers are highly
sceptical about so-called "Frankenstein Foods."

Whatever the environmental concerns, the British Medical Association has
said GMO foods were unlikely to harm human health.


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