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GM Sugar Beet Research Leaves Wildlife Short of Grub

Immediate release (19 Jan 2005)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

New research on GM sugar beet published tomorrow (1) shows that different crop management will leave the UK’s farmland wildlife short of food at some stage in the year.

The research carried out by the UK’s only sugar beet research centre (Brooms Barn) shows that all three GM sugar beet management approaches so far proposed fail to provide weeds and weed seeds for farmland in every season:

They can enhance weed seed banks and autumn bird food availability compared with conventional management, or provide early season benefits to invertebrates and nesting birds, depending on the system chosen.

Research published in 2003 on the Farm Scale Evaluations found that GM sugar beet spraying was significantly more damaging to wildlife than the management of conventional crops.

Brooms Barn used two techniques on the GM beet to increase weed cover or seed production -band spraying in the early season or delayed spraying. Only one technique can be applied to the crop.

Commenting, GM Freeze Director, Pete Riley said:

The choices offered by GM sugar beet cropping appears to offer farmland birds three options: insufficient food through out the year, early season food or autumn food. This is bad news for resident birds which need food all year round. Brooms Barn’s proposal makes sugar beet more complicated and they neglect to tell us how growing regimes will be monitored and enforced and crucially who will pay for these essential requirements. We doubt that this last ditch attempt to save GM sugar beet will have much credibility with regulators or farmers.



[1] May M (et al) “Management of genetically modified herbicide tolerant sugar beet for spring and autumn environmental benefit”, Proc. R. Soc. B., 19 January 2005.