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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

GM Seeds – And then There Were None

Immediate release (16 Dec 2004)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

The GM Freeze warmly welcomed the news that the two remaining applications to place GM seeds on the UK’s “national seed list” were withdrawn by Bayer CropScience on 9th November. There are now currently no GM varieties awaiting seed listing approval down from a high point of 53 in 1997/98 none of which gained approval

One variety is a spring oilseed rape and the other is a winter oilseed rape both are modified to be tolerant to Bayer’s herbicide Liberty (glufosinate ammonium). The applications were first made in December 1997 when the company fully expected the first GM varieties to be given the go ahead soon afterwards. However, fierce public opposition to GM crops based on concerns about significant gaps in scientific knowledge of food safety and environmental impact delayed final commercial approvals. Strong criticism of the herbicide tolerant crops came from English Nature who were concerned that these crops could harm to farmland wildlife by reducing food sources and make an already serious situation worse.

The government sponsored Farm Scale Evaluations (FSE) were set up to test the impact of GM herbicide tolerant crops compared with conventional ones. Winter and spring oilseed rape were both included in the FSE. The results for spring oilseed were published in October 2003 and found GM oilseed was more harmful to farmland wildlife than the conventionally grown varieties. The results of the FSE for winter oilseed rape are expected shortly.

It is believed that the decision to withdraw the GM oilseed rape varieties is for commercial reasons because the two seeds have been overtaken in their performance by conventional hybrids in the last 7 years. Coincidentally, Bayer recently revealed to Greenpeace India that they no longer intended to produce GM seeds for India where there is also opposition to the technology.

Commenting Pete Riley, Director of the GM Freeze, said:

This is great news for farmers, consumers and the environment although not entirely unexpected. This means that no GM commercial crops can be grown before 2008 but first they have to get EU approval. The Government must use the breathing space to put together a coherent strategy to put the whole of UK farming on a sustainable footing. This should produce huge opportunities for research into new farming techniques and training farmers in delivering clean rivers and water supply and a diverse countryside without resorting to GM crops. The Government also needs to use the next three years to develop an economic climate that means farmers can make sustainable farming profitable.