The Government should not be caving in to commercial lobbying and putting British birds and butterflies at risk.
Environment groups have called on the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to condemn Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's support for growing GM crops in Britain.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, GeneWatch UK, GM Freeze and the Soil Association expressed concerns that controversial Roundup Ready GM crops might be planted in England as early as Spring 2015, leading to harm to the environment.
"Monsanto and other GM companies are desperate to push their GM crops into other countries before the devastating impacts on wildlife and farming destroy existing markets", said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "The Government should not be caving in to commercial lobbying and putting British birds and butterflies at risk."
At the EU's March Environment Council meeting Paterson supported a proposal that would fast-track GM crops for commercial cultivation in pro-GM countries, while allowing anti-GM countries to opt out.
Blanket spraying of controversial herbicide
The first GM crops in the pipeline for approval that are likely to be grown in England are Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM maize NK603 and Syngenta's GA21.
These crops are genetically engineered to withstand blanket spraying with the weedkiller glyphosate - sold by Monsanto under its brand name 'Roundup'. Monsanto has not withdrawn its application to plant NK603 in the EU, despite announcing in July 2013 that it would do so.
Previous plans to grow herbicide-tolerant GM crops commercially in the UK were abandoned in 2004 following the Farm Scale Evaluations, which showed that blanket spraying with weedkillers destroys important habitats for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
Superweeds and residues
These concerns have been borne out in reality in the United States, where widespread planting of Roundup Ready crops has led to a drastic decline in numbers of the iconic Monarch butterfly due to the destruction of the milkweed habitat where they lay their eggs.
'Superweeds', which have evolved resistance to Roundup, adversely affected nearly half of US farms surveyed in 2013, leading to major economic and environmental problems as spraying with other more toxic weedkillers has increased in response.
GMO crops sprayed with glyphosate also have far higher levels of herbicide residue in the resulting food product than conventional crops, and this has given rise to reports of damage to the health of farm animals.
Monopoly control over the supply of these GM seeds, which are patented, would also lead to major seed price hikes for farmers.