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<nettime> FW: Wildlife killed by conventional farming 'flourishes in GM
wade tillett on Thu, 16 Jan 2003 20:22:02 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> FW: Wildlife killed by conventional farming 'flourishes in GM fields'

( i like the structure of the either/or argument here: either
pesticides or gm crops. and the study, as the article admits, is based
on test plots that would be about 12x12 meters. )


Wildlife killed by conventional farming 'flourishes in GM fields'
By Steve Connor Science Editor
15 January 2003

One of the first experiments to test the impact of genetically
modified crops on the environment has found that insects and farmland
birds can flourish in GM fields that under conventional farming would
be wildlife deserts.

Scientists monitoring plots of GM sugar beet have recorded a
significant increase in spiders, beetles and other insects that
provide important food for the nestlings of skylarks, lapwings and

They claim in a study published today in the Royal Society journal
Proceedings B that GM crops engineered to be resistant to
broad-spectrum herbicides could be better for wildlife than
conventional crops doused with less powerful weedkillers.

The study was run by the Broom's Barn research station in Suffolk,
Britain's national centre for sugar beet research, and was part-funded
by Monsanto, the American agrochemicals company and principal supplier
of GM technology.

Alan Dewar, an entomologist at Broom's Barn, said the study was vetted
by independent scientists and that Monsanto had no role in determining
the way the data was collected or how the findings were published.

Although the GM sugar beet plots were relatively small - about 144 sq
metres (1,550 sq ft) - the the findings were broadly applicable to
other crops grown on a much bigger scale, Dr Dewar said.

"I've spent 19 years crawling around sugar beet fields and I have
never in all that time seen a skylark's nest. I saw my first one in
one of the GM plots," he said. "I didn't expect these things to happen
but they did and I was quite pleased."

Conventional sugar beet seedlings have to be sprayed with herbicides
within a few days of germination if they are not so be suffocated by
invading weeds. This means fields are sprayed several times and are
virtually devoid of weeds.

There are few insects and spiders for birds to feed on and little
cover for ground-nesting species such as skylarks.

But the scientists showed that weeds could be allowed to grow between
the rows of GM sugar beet seedlings provided a limited spraying with a
broad-spectrum weedkiller was applied directly to prevent early
suffocation of the seedlings.

Later in the summer, after the first clutch of nestlings fledged, the
weeds between the rows could be sprayed, leaving a decaying mulch
where some insects continued to live, Dr Dewar said.

John Pidgeon, the director of Broom's Barn, said non-GM crops needed
frequent spraying with conventional herbicides to destroy the weeds on
which insects and birds depended.

"Our system means we can reduce the amount of spraying and allow weeds
between the rows to flourish in summer without affecting yield.

"Our method could easily be applied to other row crops," Dr Pidgeon

"We are excited about our results because this is the first time
research has shown that GM herbicide-tolerant crops can be managed for
environmental benefit," he said.

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