UK minister calls for study of GM crop impacts

Swiss findings of impacts on lacewings prompt call for ban on GM maize

UK environment minister Michael Meacher has called for more research into the impact on biodiversity of pest-resistant genetically modified crops. He has also asked officials to "step up" consideration of how such impacts should be dealt with by the regulatory system. His statement comes in response to calls from environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) for the UK to ban cultivation of genetically engineered insect-resistant maize. FoE's call was based on laboratory research carried out by the Swiss government scientists which found that lacewings - beneficial insects that eat important crop pests and are eaten by birds - suffered higher mortality when they ate pests that had fed on the maize. Mr Meacher took advice from the government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) before concluding that there were no grounds for a pre-emptive ban of the maize - no company has yet applied to grow the maize commercially in the UK. ENDS Daily understands, however, that the sole representa tive of the environmental movement on ACRE, Julie Hill, has said that she thinks that insect-resistant crops should not be grown in the UK without more information on their impacts. Last month, English Nature - an official conservation body - called for a four-year moratorium on growing certain genetically modified crops due to concern over their impact on biodiversity (ENDS Daily 7 July).

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