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FARM SCALE EVALUATION RESULTS - IMPORTANT NEW EVIDENCE ON GM CROPS

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Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett today received the results of ...
Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett today received the results of

the Farm Scale Evaluations of three herbicide-tolerant GM crops -

maize, beet and spring oilseed rape.

The Government-sponsored evaluations have been carried out over a

three-year period to test the impact on farmland wildlife of the

herbicide use associated with these crops.

The results will now be passed to the Government's statutory advisory

body - the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) -

who will advise on their implications. In the light of ACRE's advice

Ministers will decide the UK's position on whether these specific

crops should be approved for commercial cultivation in the EU.

There are currently no GM crops being grown in the UK and none have

all the approvals required for commercial cultivation. No GM crops

can be sown without further regulatory approval which cannot take

place until next spring at the earliest. We expect to receive ACRE's

advice in December or early January.

In parallel the Government will also be reflecting on the findings of

its GM dialogue - the public debate, the science review, and the

costs and benefits study - as well as a forthcoming report on the

coexistence of GM and non-GM crops. It will decide its overall policy

on GM crops in the light of all the available evidence.

Mrs Beckett commented:

'The Government commissioned this research - the biggest GM crop

trials anywhere in the world - to address a specific gap in our

knowledge. The trials demonstrate the precautionary approach which

the Government has taken on GM crops from the start. The results will

be considered as part of the comprehensive risk assessment undertaken

for every GM crop.

'We persisted with this research despite the activities of some

anti-GM campaigners, including serious attempts to destroy the trial

sites. So I am very pleased that the results are now available - we

have said all the way through what have been fairly difficult years

that they would provide valuable additional information to test the

potential impact of growing and managing these crops on farmland

wildlife. This is one of the environmental criteria that each

application must meet.'

'The results will not only inform the UK Government's position. We

are forwarding them to all other EU member states. They will also, no

doubt, want to consider them very carefully.

'I shall reflect carefully on these results and the outcome of the

public debate. I have said consistently that the Government is

neither pro-nor anti-GM crops - our over-riding concern is to

protect human health and the environment, and to ensure genuine

consumer choice.'

A number of applications for the import or cultivation of GM crops

are currently being considered by the EU. Current EU legislation

requires decisions to be taken on the basis of the evidence presented

for each crop. No final decisions on applications for cultivation are

likely at EU level until the New Year. Any decision is subject to

collective agreement by member states.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. For details of the publication of the Farm-scale Evaluation

results see the press release issued by the Scientific Steering

Committee via Defra Press Office on www.defra.gov.uk news release

site today.

2. The full scientific results were published today in The

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Full details are

available at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse.

3. To aid understanding of the results, the Scientific Steering

Committee has published a non specialist summary of the results ('GM

crops: Effects on Farmland Wildlife') and a commentary ('The

implications of spring-sown genetically modified herbicide-tolerant

crops for farmland biodiversity: A commentary on the Farm Scale

Evaluations of spring-sown crops'). These are available at:

www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fs e

4. The Scientific Steering Committee has advised Government ministers

on the completion of the studies. A copy of their advice is attached

below.

5. The Scientific steering committee will be holding an open meeting

at which the results will be presented on the afternoon of 16 October

and again on the evening of 28 October. Details at

www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse

6. As part of their deliberation process, ACRE will be holding two

open meetings at which they will take evidence on the findings.

Anyone interested in submitting evidence should see

www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre for further details.

7. Decisions on whether or not to permit the cultivation of GM crops

in the European Union are taken collectively by member states after a

thorough assessment of the specific GM crop concerned and its

potential impact on human health and the environment, in accordance

with the procedures in Directive 2001/18 on the deliberate release

into the environment of GMOs. Further information is available on the

Defra web-site at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/index.htm

Press enquiries 020 7238 6076;Public enquiries 08459 335577;

Press notices are available on our website

www.defra.gov.uk

Defra's aim is sustainable development

End

16th October 2003

Scientific Steering Committee for the GM crop farm-scale evaluations

Final advice to Ministers

The Scientific Steering Committee was formed in May 1999 to oversee

the ecological studies that are the farm-scale evaluations. The

studies have been conducted by a consortium of independent

contractors made up of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology,

Rothamsted Research and the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

The remit of The Scientific Steering Committee includes advising the

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the

Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly on the outcome of the

Farm-scale evaluations.

To day eight scientific papers containing the results of the

farm-scale evaluation of spring-sown crops (maize, beet and spring

oilseed rape) have been published in The Philosophical Transactions

of the Royal Society (Biological Sciences). The publication of these

papers, following full peer-review, provides independent endorsement

of the SSC's view that the farm scale evaluations were designed and

executed to a high standard. The SSC is content that these eight

papers collectively have adequately addressed the null hypothesis

under test: that, for each crop, the effect on the abundance and

diversity of wildlife of the management of the GM crop does not

differ from the effect of the management of the conventional

equivalent. The null hypothesis was rejected in each case.

Growing conventional beet and spring rape was better for many groups

of wildlife than growing GM herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) beet and spring

rape. Some insect groups, such as bees (in beet crops) and

butterflies (in beet and spring rape) , were recorded more frequently

in and around the conventional crops because there were more weeds to

provide food and cover. There were also more weed seeds in

conventional beet and spring rape crops than in their GM

counterparts. Such seeds are important in the diets of some animals,

particularly some birds. However some groups of soil insects were

found in greater numbers in GMHT beet and spring rape crops.

In contrast, growing GMHT maize was better for many groups of

wildlife than conventional maize. There were more weeds in and around

the GMHT maize crops, more butterflies and bees around at certain

times of the year, and more weed seeds.

It is not the remit of the Scientific Steering Committee to comment

on the regulatory significance of these findings. However the results

will be passed to The Advisory Committee on Releases to the

Environment (ACRE) and both the SSC and the research team will

willingly assist A CRE in their deliberations if required.

The data from the winter oilseed rape trials are being collated now.

Data analysis and report writing will begin shortly. It is intended

the results will be published in mid-2004 at which time the SSC will

advise on the outcome.

All data collected in the farm scale evaluations will be made

available for further research purposes or for public inspection.

Details of how access will be managed will be published shortly.

The SSC would like to congratulate the research consortium on the

successful completion of this work.

Signed:

Professor Christopher Pollock (Chairman), IGER

Dr Nicholas Aebischer, Game Conservancy Trust

Dr Alastair Burn, English Nature

Professor Mick Crawley, Imperial College

Dr David Gibbons, RSPB

Mr Jim Orson, Morley Research Centre

Dr Nick Sotherton, Game Conservancy Trust

Nobel House

17 Smith Square

London SW1P 3JR

Telephone 020 7238 1134

Fax 020 7238 5529

Out of hours telephone 020 7270 8960

Out of hours fax 020 7270 8125

Website www.defra.gov.uk

DEPARTMENT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

423/03 16 October 2003

GM CROP FARM SCALE EVALUATION RESULTS PUBLISHED TODAY

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE FSE SCIENTIFIC STEERING COMMITTEE BY DEFRA

PRESS OFFICE

GM crop Farm Scale Evaluation

Scientific Steering Committee

NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Rothamsted Research

Scottish Crop Research Institute

Growing conventional beet and spring rape was better for many groups

of wildlife than growing GM herbicide-tolerant beet and spring rape.

Some insect groups, such as bees (in beet crops) and butterflies (in

beet and spring rape), were recorded more frequently in and around

the conventional crops because there were more weeds to provide food

and cover. There were also more weed seeds in conventional beet and

spring rape cro ps than in their GM counterparts. Such seeds are

important in the diets of some animals, particularly some birds.

However some groups of soil insects were found in greater numbers in

GM herbicide- tolerant beet and spring rape crops.

In contrast, growing GM herbicide-tolerant maize was better for many

groups of wildlife than conventional maize.

There were more weeds in and around the GM herbicide-tolerant maize

crops, more butterflies and bees around at certain times of the year,

and more weed seeds.

The researchers stress that the differences they found are not a

result of the way in which the crops have been genetically modified.

They arose because these GM crops gave farmers taking part in the

trial new options for weed control. That is, they used different

herbicides and applied them differently.

The research has been conducted by an independent consortium of

research institutes. The head of the research team, Dr Les Firbank

said: 'The research team is proud to present our findings. The

results are clearly important to the debate about the possible

commercialisation of GM crops. But, they also give us new insights

that will help us conserve biodiversity within productive farming

systems.'

The work has been overseen by an independent Scientific Steering

Committee. Today they have advised the Secretary of State that the

Farm Scale Evaluations have been successfully completed and have

outlined the findings from the study. The Chairman of the Scientific

Steering Committee, Professor Chris Pollock said: 'I am delighted

that the hard work and dedication of so many people from the farming,

industry and research communities has finally reached fruition with

the open publication of the results. I look forward with enthusiasm

to the scientific debate that starts today and to the impact that

these trials will have on ecological and agricultural research'.

The Scientific Steering Committee and research con sortium have

produced an accessible summary of the research findings and a

scientific commentary of the results. Both documents are intended to

make understanding the complex series of studies easier. Copies are

available free from the farm scale evaluation website.

The Scientific Steering Committee will now pass the results of the

study to the Government's statutory advisers on GM crops - the

Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) - who will

review the findings and advise the government on their conclusions.

For further details, see www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre.

Notes for editors

For full details of how to obtain a copy of the results, the

non-specialist summary or the scientific commentary see

www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse

The SSC advice to ministers is copied below.

The field trials began in 1999 when the government asked an

independent consortium of researchers to investigate how growing

herbicide-tolerant GM crops might affect farmland wildlife compared

with growing non- GM varieties of the same crops.

The crops tested were spring-sown oilseed rape, beet and maize. The

GM crops had been genetically modified to make them resistant to

specific herbicides. The research team found that there were

differences in the abundance of wildlife between GMHT crop fields and

conventional crop fields.

Results for a fourth crop in the farm scale evaluations, winter

oilseed rape, are expected to be published in mid- 2004. The data

from the winter oilseed rape trials are being collated now, following

harvesting of the final crops earlier this summer. Data analysis and

report writing will begin shortly

Media arrangements and FSE presentation: Any requests for interviews

with members of the Scientific Steering Committee or the research

scientists should be directed to the Science Media Centre. For

further details contact:

FionaFox

ScienceMediaCentre

TheRoyalI nstitution

21AlbemarleStreet

LondonW1S4BS

Tel:02076702981

Fax:02076702950

Email:ffox@ri.ac.uk

www.sciencemediacentre.org

The Scientific Steering Committee comprised:

Professor Christopher Pollock (Chairman), IGER

Dr Nicholas Aebischer, Game Conservancy Trust

DrAlastairBurn,EnglishNature

Professor Mick Crawley, Imperial College

Dr David Gibbons, RSPB

MrJimOrson,MorleyResearchCentre

Dr Nick Sotherton, Game Conservancy Trust

The FSE research consortium is made up of:

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (part of the Natural Environment

Research Council)

Monks Wood

Abbots Ripton

Huntingdon

Cambridgeshire

PE28 2LS

Tel: 01487 772400

Fax: 01487 773590

www.ceh.ac.uk

RothamstedResearch

Harpenden

Hertfordshire

AL52JQ

Tel:01582763133

Fax: 01582 760981

www.rothamsted.ac.uk

The Scottish Crop Research Institute

Invergowrie

Dundee

DD2 5DA

Scotland,UK.

Tel: 01382 562731

Fax: 01382 562426

www.scri.sari.ac.uk

The research was funded by Defra and SEERAD; for more details see

www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse or email gm@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

16th October 2003

Scientific Steering Committee for the GM crop farm-scale evaluations

Final advice to Ministers

The Scientific Steering Committee was formed in May 1999 to oversee

the ecological studies that are the farm-scale evaluations. The

studies have been conducted by a consortium of independent

contractors made up of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology,

Rothamsted Research and the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

The remit of The Scientific Steering Committee includes advising the

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the

Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly on the outcome of the

Farm-scale evaluations.

Today eight scientific papers containing the results of the

farm-scale evaluation of spring-sown crops (maize, beet and spring

oilseed rape) have been published in The Philosophical Transactions

of the Royal Society (Biological Sciences). The publication of these

papers, following full peer-review, provides independent endorsement

of the SSC's view that the farm scale evaluations were designed and

executed to a high standard. The SSC is content that these eight

papers collectively have adequately addressed the null hypothesis

under test: that, for each crop, the effect on the abundance and

diversity of wildlife of the management of the GM crop does not

differ from the effect of the management of the conventional

equivalent. The null hypothesis was rejected in each case.

Growing conventional beet and spring rape was better for many groups

of wildlife than growing GM herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) beet and spring

rape. Some insect groups, such as bees (in beet crops) and

butterflies (in beet and spring rape) , were recorded more frequently

in and around the conventional crops because there were more weeds to

provide food and cover. There were also more weed seeds in

conventional beet and spring rape crops than in their GM

counterparts. Such seeds are important in the diets of some animals,

particularly some birds. However some groups of soil insects were

found in greater numbers in GMHT beet and spring rape crops.

In contrast, growing GMHT maize was better for many groups of

wildlife than conventional maize. There were more weeds in and around

the GMHT maize crops, more butterflies and bees around at certain

times of the year, and more weed seeds.

It is not the remit of the Scientific Steering Committee to comment

on the regulatory significance of these findings. However the results

will be passed to The Advisory Committee on Releases to the

Environment (ACRE) and both the SSC and the research team will

willingly assist ACRE in their deliberations if required.

The data from the winter oilseed rape trials are being collated now.

D ata analysis and report writing will begin shortly. It is intended

the results will be published in mid-2004, at which time the SSC will

advise on the outcome.

All data collected in the farm scale evaluations will be made

available for further research purposes or for public inspection.

Details of how access will be managed will be published shortly.

The SSC would like to congratulate the research consortium on the

successful completion of this work.

Signed:

Professor Christopher Pollock (Chairman), IGER

Dr Nicholas Aebischer, Game Conservancy Trust

Dr Alastair Burn, English Nature

Professor Mick Crawley, Imperial College

Dr David Gibbons, RSPB

Mr Jim Orson, Morley Research Centre

Dr Nick Sotherton, Game Conservancy Trust

Public enquiries 08459 335577

Press notices are available on our website

www.defra.gov.uk

Defra's aim is sustainable development

End

Nobel House

17 Smith Square

London SW1P 3JR

Telephone 020 7238 1133

Fax 020 7238 5529

Out of hours telephone 020 7270 8960

Out of hours fax 020 7270 8125

Website www.defra.gov.uk

-----------------------------------------------------

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