GM non-food crops will bring contamination (23/4/2004)

GM non-food crops will bring contamination threats to food and nature
GeneWatch UK Press Release
Embargoed until 00.01 hours Friday 23rd April 2004

A new GeneWatch UK report published today reveals how the production of GM crops intended for non-food uses could contaminate food crops and wild species. The 48 page report 'Non-food crops: new dawn or false hope? Part 2: grasses, flowers, trees, fibre crops and industrial uses', was written by Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch’s Director.

The report considers research taking place into the development of GM crops intended for non-food use: grasses, flowers, trees, crops such as cotton used for fibre production, and the range of different crops being modified to provide the raw materials for industrial production of oils, starches and plastics. It considers how they are being modified, how successful it has been and what environmental and health issues are raised. It makes recommendations for policy and research.

The report reveals:

how the biotechnology industry are pursuing the use of GM in non-food crops in the hope of side-stepping public concerns over GM foods; that GM grasses for use in lawns and golf courses may be commercialised in the US soon and raise serious environmental concerns because they are perennial, freely wind pollinating, and often spread via underground shoots. Grasses commonly spread worldwide on wool and via imported grass and bird seed;  

how GM trees for use in intensive plantations may pose serious environmental threats because trees are long lived and their seed and pollen can move long distances;

that grasses, trees and fibre crops are often being modified in the same way as food crops including herbicide tolerance which has caused controversy over biodiversity impacts;

the use of GM food crops, like oilseed rape, for non-food uses such as the production of biofuels and plastics, could lead to the contamination of non-GM and organic food crops;

GM cotton and flowers are the first commercialised non-food GM crops that are being grown commercially outside Europe;

GM potatoes modified for industrial starch production could be given approval for growing in Europe in 2004.

"The use of GM for non-food crops could bring contamination of food and nature by the back door,” said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch’s Director and author of the report. “Industry and government hope to get around public concerns by using GM technology on non-food crops. We know it is difficult to contain GM crops inside a field or farm but GM grasses and trees will not even stay inside a country. Although people aren't going to eat them, the GM contamination threat to other plants remains".

For more details please contact Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office) or 07930 308807 (mobile)

The full text of the report can be downloaded as a pdf file (240kb) from: www.genewatch.org/CropsAndFood/Reports/non-food_crops_part2.pdf   

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive