GENET archive


RISK ASSESSMENT: Report claims EU crop approval processes arebiased against GM

please read more about the UK Farm Scale Evaluations at:

The FSEs have been set up by an UK industrial-governmental partnership
to test the null hypothesis "that there are no significant differences
between the biodiversity associated with the management of the particular
GMHT crop and the comparable non-GM crop at the farm scale."

Success in delivering FSE trial sites
As the industry partner within the UK Government's Farm-Scale Evaluations,
SCIMAC ensured the successful delivery of more than 280 field-scale trials
of GM herbicide tolerant crops in the UK, meeting the independent
scientific criteria of this pioneering biodiversity research programme;
'The consortium informed the SSC that all field work on spring oil seed
rape, beet and maize is now complete and that enough experimental fields
had been studied to address the null hypothesis. The SSC congratulated
all members of the research consortium, the farmers and the industry
group SCIMAC on this achievement.'
FSE Scientific Steering Committee, November 2002

The outcome obviously did not fulfill the partnership's expectations,
in the following, the methodological set-up was strongly critizised. 
The most interesting question now is: Would the methodology have been
scrutinized also if the outcome confirmed the null hypothesis?

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Report claims crop approval processes are biased against GM
SOURCE: Farmers Guardian, UK
AUTHOR: Clemmie Gleeson
DATE:   04.05.2007

Report claims crop approval processes are biased against GM

THE approval processes for genetically modified and conventional crops
are fundamentally flawed and biased against GM.

That is the renewed message from a sub-group of the Advisory Committee
on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) in a report this week.

The sub-group was set up to assess the wider implications of the Farm-
Scale Evaluations of genetically modified herbicide tolerant (GMHT) crops.

A draft of its report was sent to a range of stakeholders for
consultation last year and its updated report was published yesterday.

The FSEs were a four-year research programme looking at the effect that
the management practices associated with GMHT crops might have on
farmland wildlife, compared with weed control used with non-GM crops.

The results for the field trials in spring sown crop (maize, beet and
oilseed rape) were published in 2003 and the results for winter oilseed
rape were published in 2005.

The ACRE sub-group's report highlights inconsistencies in the way GM
crops are assessed compared to other crops and practices. For example,
EU law requires an environmental risk assessment of the impact for GM
crops while no such assessments are required for non-GM crops.

There is also no requirement for agricultural management practices to be
subjected to the same scrutiny, despite studies that have shown changes
to practices, for example switching from spring to winter sowing, can be
'at least as significant' as changes associated with GM crops.

The report said: "This inconsistency is further illustrated by GM
herbicide tolerant crops that require an extensive environmental risk
assessment before approval for cultivation and marketing whilst
herbicide tolerant crops produced by non-GM breeding methods can be
grown without an equivalent assessment."

It also criticised the EU Directive 2001/18 for making no provision to
assess environmental benefits of GM crops such as reduced herbicide use
while, environmental benefits are a 'major focus' in the introduction of
a number of other novel crops (including energy crops) and agricultural
management practices in the UK. Similarly, there is no regulatory
requirement to assess potential environmental costs in a fashion similar
to GM crops.

Greater environmental sustainability involves understanding and
balancing the potential risks and benefits of existing and new
agricultural technologies whether GM or non-GM, say the scientists.

They have therefore recommended seven principles that the UK adopt when
assessing novel agricultural products and practices. These include
taking account of benefits as well as risks, comparative assessment with
current crops and practices, and being sensitive to the competitiveness
of all sectors of UK agriculture.

It also proposes the use of a Comparative Sustainability Assessment
(CSA) that should be accommodated within EU legislation concerning the
release of GMOs. Such an approach would not represent a 'softening' of
the current regulatory region with respect to GMs, it said.

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                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  GMO crop rules should also weigh pluses: report
SOURCE: Reuters
AUTHOR: David Evans
DATE:   03.05.2007

GMO crop rules should also weigh pluses: report

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe should weigh benefits as well as risks when
evaluating new farm technologies like biotech crops to avoid stifling
innovation that may be key to future food security, a report for the UK
government said on Thursday.

With agriculture facing huge challenges from climate change, rising
world wealth levels and new crop-based biofuels, ACRE (Advisory
Committee on Releases to the Environment) said it was time for a more
balanced and holistic approach to regulation.

"We need to get a better balance between the good and bad sides of novel
technologies," ACRE chairman Chris Pollock told a press conference.

"We can't wall off avenues we may need in the future."

In an advisory report for David Miliband, UK Secretary of State for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ACRE said the current approvals
system for genetically-modified (GM) crops of focusing purely on
potential risks was unbalanced.

The report cited genetically modified herbicide tolerant beet, which was
denied clearance for cultivation due to negative effects on weeds and
invertebrates of the herbicide used.

But as under European Union rules only the risks were considered,
evidence of any potential environmental benefits such as the reduced
herbicide use leading to lower Co2 emissions were not considered.


And this wider approvals process should be expanded to include changes
in farming practices like biofuels that also have an environmental
impact, the report said.

"Environmental benefits are now a major focus in the introduction of a
number of other novel crops (e.g. energy crops) and agricultural
management practices in the UK. There is no regulatory requirement to
assess potential environmental costs in a fashion similar to GM crops,"
it said.

The report, which is designed to stimulate discussion at European Union
level, listed changes in agricultural practices that have been shown to
have had an environmental impact at least as significant as those with
GMO crops.

These included the change from spring to winter sowing for arable crops
and a shift from hay cutting to silage production.

The prospect of some farmers switching into new crops to produce
biofuels could have unforeseen consequences if left completely
uncontrolled, particularly given the strains on food production that are
likely in the years ahead.

"We could end up covering the land with crops that don't actually
produce food, and that may be a problem in the future," Pollock said.

"It was only a generation ago that British agriculture was given the
task of feeding the nation. That role may come back."

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