Genetic engineering is a Good Thing?

Oz Oz at
Sun Sep 27 15:57:49 EST 1998

In article <VA.000015ae.00294181 at rogersbox>, Roger Whitehead
<rgw at> writes

>Genetically Modified Crops Threaten Wildlife - 27 March 1998 
>English Nature, the Government wildlife advisers, today welcomed a statement 
>from Professor John Beringer, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Releases to 
>the Environment (ACRE), about possible damage to wildlife caused by growing 
>genetically modified (GM) crops. Professor Beringer made his remarks at the 
>launch of ACRE's Annual Report. In his statement, Professor Beringer 
>acknowledged that increased herbicide use associated with the use of GM 
>herbicide tolerant crops, such as maize, sugar beet and oilseed rape, could put 
>yet more pressure on farmland wildlife. 

Professor Beringer has either been misquoted or is wholly ignorant of
the systems used on conventional crops verses those likely to be used of
herbicide tolerant crops. Far from increased herbicide use the entire
point is that less herbicide is used and furthermore that herbicide is
about as benign to non-plant organisms as it is possible to get.
Currently for sugarbeet and rape it is necessary to use several
herbicides (usually multiple sequential doses in the case of sugarbeet)
in order to obtain adequate control of the various species. 

For example in rape (which I know as I grow it) one might typically use
trifluralin (moderate control of grasses and some broadleaved weeds),
followed by benazolin+clopyralid (many broadleaved weeds) and then a dim
or fop for grassweed control. If the field has more difficult weeds then
another one or two actives may also be required. As I understand it fro
GM OSR the likely requirements will be two (one autumn & one spring)
reduced rates of glyphosate and that will give much superior control
(this is good because weed seed return in rape can result in more
herbicides being used in following crops). In sugar beet even more
sprays are required under a conventional system but it looks like often
only one glyposate spray will be required.

That's the situation and I cannot understand why anyone would wish to
deny it. The whole selling point is that you use less sprays and spend
the money saved on the seed.

>Conservation agencies have been concerned for some time that the use of GM 
>herbicide tolerant and insect resistant crops could greatly reduce weeds and 
>insects on farmland, which in turn might threaten the survival of several 
>species of farmland birds, including skylarks, finches and buntings. 

The results of the work done this year were reported in (UK) Farmer's
Weekly in the last 4 weeks. The result is completely the opposite of
what is being said above. The statement above only makes sense for
sugarbeet because rape has little (often no) insecticide from mid spring
to harvest and weeds able to compete with adult rape are not suitable
for birds (in any case the rapeseed is far superior). Because the
existing herbicides struggle to kill the weeds without killing the
sugarbeet they only kill very small (up to one true leaf, typically)
weeds and so multiple applications are required to kill each flush. At
the same time insecticides are often applied because the biomass of the
beet seedlings is small and it doesn't take many pests to cause serious
damage. With GM sugarbeet one can (indeed one wishes to, so as to only
have to make one application) leave the weeds until they start competing
with the crop, which apparently is a rather large young plant. What was
found (contrary to expectations) was that the insects preferred the
weeds to the beet and predator-prey populations built up in the weeds
pre-spraying with a resultant movement of predators after spraying with
glyphosate onto the beet that dispensed with at least one (I can't
remember if it was more than one) insecticide spray. Since young birds
typically require an insect diet the increase in insect biomass within
the field must be beneficial.

All in all it looks extremely good for the environment. **Be happy**,
this is a GOOD thing. For once put your politics and preconceptions
aside and support something that's a real improvement.

> We very much welcome his 
>suggestion that this issue is considered in depth before that revolution takes 
>place, so that measures which address these issues may be put in place before 
>potential damage is done. 

Which is why activists have been busy destroying this evidence. One
might ask why they would do such a thing.

>EN and, as far as I know, ACRE are not exactly scaremongers, 

Eh? They have a political viewpoint and are certainly NOT unbiassed

>and I suspect 
>their view reflects that of a lot of conservationists.

I think that is probably true. I thoroughly recommend anyone interested
in this subject to pop into a library and read the articles I commented
on. For a farmer the idea of spending less money on pesticides, coupled
with less work applying them AND increasing the wildlife on the farm is
very attractive. Unfortunately going on the usual way of things the seed
will likely be too expensive to sow form many, at least initially.


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