The UK agriculture ministry is seeking public views on herbicide tolerant crops - one of the more contentious developments of agricultural genetic engineering. In a recently released discussion paper, the ministry offers the options of industry self-regulation, an official code of practice, regulatory controls or a ban. It suggests that commercial experience in the USA has shown economic and environmental advantages from herbicide resistant crops, but also outlines potential environmental drawbacks from their use. These include the spread of herbicide tolerance to other crops and weed species through natural gene transfer, a risk which environmental groups have stressed in campaigns against herbicide tolerance. According to the discussion paper, the UK government has issued 55 consents for the experimental release of herbicide resistant crops; while EU marketing consents are now in force for herbicide resistant tobacco and maize and, for non-food use, oilseed rape and chicory.
UK agriculture ministry, tel: +44 171 270 3000.
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