Government committee wants to see more GM crops

4th May 2007
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A government committee has suggested that ministers and policy makers look more favourably upon genetically modified (GM) crops if they can be shown to have an environmental benefit.

In a report released yesterday, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) said that there were ‘inconsistencies’ in the way GM and non-GM crops were assessed:
‘Quantitative field studies have shown that the environmental impact of changes in agricultural management can be at least as significant as those associated with GM crops,’ the authors said. ‘Examples include the change from spring to winter sowing in arable crops and the shift from hay cutting to silage production.’

ACRE argues that because ‘environmental benefits’ are now the yardstick by which agricultural practices are measured, the advantages of products such as herbicide tolerant GM crops should be taken more fully into account.

Although the authors stress that their recommendations do not represent a ‘softening’ of the current GM protocols, the report’s suggestions, such as giving ‘opportunities’ to ‘novel crops and practices’ and taking account of ‘benefits as well as risks’ could well be seen as an olive branch to European GM crop lobby.

Claire Oxborrow, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
‘It should absolutely not lead to a reduction in the rigorous application of legislation to test GM crops for their safe use.’

This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2007