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6-Regulation: UK Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment urges for assessing benefits of GE crops



                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Gene crops merit cost-benefit analysis - report
SOURCE: Reuters
        http://go.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?
type=topNews&storyID=1138122&section=news&src=rss/uk/topNews
DATE:   17 Mar 2006

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Gene crops merit cost-benefit analysis - report

LONDON (Reuters) - Regulators should assess possible environmental
benefits of genetically modified crops (GMO) as well as their potential
to cause damage, scientists who advise the government say.

"The current regulatory system is flawed because it doesn't weigh (the)
damage against the potential benefits for the environment," the Advisory
Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) said.

In a report released on Friday, the committee recommended tests of all
agricultural innovations and cited recent four-year-long field trials of
GMO crops in the UK as a suitable basis for the development of new, more
balanced tests.

In a statement published in conjunction with the report British
Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: "The GM trials gave a real
insight into how weed control regimes, in both conventional and GM crops,
can affect biodiversity."

"This raises a general question about the environmental impact of changes
in arable farming."

GMOs have become a thorny issue for the European Union after the World
Trade Organisation ruled last month that the bloc and specifically six
member states had broken rules by barring entry of GMO crops and food.

But the ACRE report has found that the environmental impact of
innovations in conventional crops can be at least as great as the effects
of GMOs.

For example, the switch from spring to winter cereals has been associated
with reductions in biodiversity, particularly farmland birds, according
to the report.

"There is, however, currently no equivalent regulatory requirement for
assessment of the positive and negative effects of such changes...on the
environment prior to their widespread adoption," the report said.

Inversely, the introduction of GMO Bt cotton in the United States led to
reduced use of insecticides as well as yield gains resulting in
environmental benefits, according to the report.

Only a new kind of risk-benefit analysis will enable policy makers to
make a balanced decision on novel technologies, ACRE said.

"We know that agriculture is going to change... If you are playing a
different game, you should change the off-site rule," ACRE's chairman
Chris Pollock told reporters ahead of the report.


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

TITLE:  Government scientific advisors call for more balanced approach to
        regulating new farming practices
SOURCE: Issued by Defra press office on behalf of ACRE, UK, Ref: 111/06
        http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2006/060317a.htm
DATE:   17 Mar 2006

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Government scientific advisors call for more balanced approach to
regulating new farming practices

Society could be losing out on the environmental benefits of new
agricultural technologies because regulators are only looking for the
potential damage, according to a new discussion document produced by
leading environment scientists.

While the scientists strongly endorse the need to make sure that new
crops and farming practices are not going to damage biodiversity, they
argue that the current regulatory system is flawed because it doesn't
weigh this damage against the potential benefits for the environment.

Professor Jules Pretty, one of the authors of the report, said:

"We need to ensure that society does not lose out on the potential
benefits of new technologies because we are looking too narrowly at the
problems. For example if we only ask whether non-food crops are damaging
biodiversity then we could lose out their huge potential to help us
tackle climate change".

Professor Chris Pollock, Chair of ACRE, who was chair of the Scientific
Steering Committee of the Farm Scale Trials on GM crops, said:

"We feel that the farm scale trials on GM crops were a great model for
testing the environmental impact of new technologies before they are
widely introduced. But many scientists also feel that by only asking
about the dis-benefits of this technology, policy makers cannot make a
balanced decision based on a proper risk benefit analysis".

The purpose of this report is to serve as a catalyst for debate about the
future development and regulation of novel agricultural technologies and
practices and their effects on the environment. ACRE will be seeking the
input of a wide range of stakeholders before finalising its recommendations.

For further information please contact the Science Media Centre (see
contact details below).


Notes to editors

1. The report has been drawn up by a sub-group of ACRE in response to
requests by the Secretary of State as well as the Agriculture and
Environment Biotechnology Commission to assess the wider implications of
the Farm-Scale Evaluations (FSEs) of genetically modified herbicide
tolerant crops.

2. The report will be available online at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/
acre/fsewiderissues/index.htm from Friday 17 March 00:01.

3. ACRE is an independent advisory committee composed of leading
scientists. The Committee's main function is to give statutory advice to
Ministers in the UK and devolved administrations on the risks to human
health and the environment from the release and marketing of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). ACRE also advises on the release of certain
non-GM species of plants and animals that are not native to Great Britain
(www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/). The Committee established a sub-
group to consider the wider issues raised by the Farm-scale Evaluations
following publication of the FSE spring crop results in 2004. Further
information on this ACRE sub-group can be found at: www.defra.gov.uk/
environment/acre/fsewiderissues/index.htm.

4. Members of the ACRE Wider Issues Sub-group:

Professor Jules Pretty (Chair of subgroup) - University of Essex
Professor Jeffrey Bale - University of Birmingham
Professor Philip Dale - John Innes Centre
Dr Philip Hulme - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Professor David Macdonald (ACP representative) - University of Oxford
Mr Jim Orson - Morley Research Centre
Professor Christopher Pollock - Institute of Grassland & Environmental
Research
Professor Mark Rees - University of Sheffield

5. Media arrangements: Any requests for interviews with members of ACRE
should be directed to the Science Media Centre. For further details contact:

Fiona Fox
Science Media Centre
The Royal Institution
21 Albemarle Street
London W1S 4BS
Tel: 020 7670 2980
Fax: 020 7670 2950
Email: ffox@ri.ac.uk www.sciencemediacentre.org


                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  New reports highlight need to consider environmental impacts of
        changes to farming practices
SOURCE: DEFRA, UK, Ref: 112/06
        http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2006/060317b.htm
DATE:   17 Mar 2006

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New reports highlight need to consider environmental impacts of changes
to farming practices

The wider environmental impacts of changes to the way that crops are
grown are considered in two new reports published today. The studies
follow up the Farm Scale Evaluations (FSE) programme which examined the
environmental effect of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops.

Today's report by the independent Advisory Committee on Releases to the
Environment (ACRE) considers the future development and regulation of new
agricultural technology and practices.

Defra has also published a report that puts the FSE results in the wider
context of other GM crop trials that have been undertaken, both in the UK
and abroad. The report also considers the broader changes that have taken
place in UK arable farming over the past century, especially its
intensification over the last 50 years and the associated decline in such
species as farmland birds.

The Defra-funded review highlights various issues for consideration,
including:
- the importance of maintaining biodiversity within arable fields, and
the balance between effective weed control on the one hand and levels of
biodiversity on the other;
- the need for agreed standards by which to judge the impact of GM crops
or other changes in arable production on the farmed environment.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley said:

"Changes in farming practice have impacted on biodiversity, but it is
clear that farmers are increasingly aware of the wider environmental
effect of their work. Environmental conditions linked to CAP payments as
well as the strong take up of environmental stewardship schemes, with
1.7m hectares of English countryside under environmentally friendly
management, will have a positive impact on farmland wildlife.

"The GM trials gave a real insight into how weed control regimes, in both
conventional and GM crops, can affect biodiversity within fields. This
raises a general question about the environmental impact of changes in
arable farming."

"I would like to thank ACRE for their contribution to this debate. This
is an important topic and both of today's reports will help us to
consider it further, by putting the FSE results in the broader context of
the long term changes that have already taken place in UK agriculture."

Other work is also in progress that directly addresses the wider point
raised by the FSE results of the environmental impact of changes in crop
production (whether conventional or GM). Defra is funding a research
project that aims to set out a detailed framework for assessing potential
indirect effects on the farmland environment of novel crops or
cultivation practices. The outcome of this project will further
contribute to Defra's policy thinking in this area.

Notes to editors

1. The government's GM policy statement of 9 March 2004 explained that
the FSEs raised far reaching questions about crop management and the
environment. It stated that:

"We have nothing like the influence over the growing and management of
conventional crops that we have over GM, even though the effects may be
just as far-reaching. And we are giving very careful consideration to
these issues."

2. The review, Biodiversity Effects of the Management Associated with GM
Cropping in the UK , by Geoff Squire and colleagues from the Scottish
Crop Research Institute, Rothamsted Research and the Centre for Ecology
and Hydrology will be available on 17 March at www2.defra.gov.uk/
research/project_data/More.asp?I=CB02
013&M=KWS&V=cb02013&SUBMIT1=Search&SCOPE=0

3. Background on the Farm Scale Evaluations is available at
www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse/index.htm.

4. Details of the Defra-funded research project on a framework for
assessing the effects of novel crops or cultivation practices are at
www2.defra.gov.uk/research/project_data/More.asp?
I=AR0317&M=KWS&V=AR0317&SUBMIT1=Search&SCOPE=0.

5. The independent Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment is
today (17 March) issuing a report for consultation on Managing the
Footprint of Agriculture: Towards a Comparative Assessment of Risks and
Benefits of Novel Agricultural Systems (available at www.defra.gov.uk/
environment/acre/fsewiderissues/index.htm).


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GENET
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