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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2003 / 0623

0623

23 june 2003
Media Advisory

Superweed Setback for Genetically Modified Crops

June 23, 2003 London (UK) / Sacramento (US) - The case for Genetically Modified (GM) crops suffered a major setback today following news that 'superweeds' have evolved which are resistant to weedkillers that GM crops are modified to tolerate.

The news means that more weedkillers will be needed in GM crop fields - not less as GM supporters have claimed.

Today's London-based newspaper 'The Independent' reports that a paper by Professor Hartzler at Iowa State University (US) reveals that in the past seven years up to five species of weed have been found with resistance to glyphosate - a powerful herbicide marketed by multinational corporation Monsanto (NYSE:MON) under the name of Roundup. [1]

The most widespread GM crops on the market and in the fields are those that have been genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate. This allows them to be sprayed with the herbicide throughout the growing season. Today's news means that more weedkillers will be needed, on top of the glyphosate. The Independent reports Monsanto as saying that its solution for dealing with resistant weeds was to apply different weedkillers in new ways.

The weeds' resistance has occurred through natural evolution, rather than gene transfer from genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops.

"Companies like Monsanto have spun the line that GM crops and their weedkillers will have less impact on the environment, but the fact of resistant weeds means that they will use more of these pesticides, and the impacts on the environment will be greater. These discoveries remove a central plank from the whole argument for GM crops," said in Sacramento Larry Bohlen from Friends of the Earth International.

From June 23-25 in Sacramento (US), around 100 Agriculture Ministers from over 75 countries, most of them developing countries, are attending a US government sponsored Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology. The US government and biotech corporations are strongly promoting GM crops as the primary solution to improving the hunger crisis and environmental problems in developing countries.

The US promotion of GM crops as a solution for the hunger crisis was criticised by many groups and was even blasted in a June 17 document of the 15-nation European Union (EU): "Food aid to starving populations should be about meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of those who are in need. It should not be about trying to advance the case for GM food abroad, or planting GM crops for export, or indeed finding outlets for domestic surplus, which is a regrettable aspect of the US food aid policy," according to the document of the EU's executive European Commission. [2]

Notes to Editors:

[1] the story is available on the website of The Independent at:
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=418070

[2] the European Commission (EC) document is available on the EC website: http://europa.eu.int/comm/trade/goods/agri/pr170603_en.htm

For more information please contact:

In Sacramento (US) Larry Bohlen, Friends of the Earth International, tel.
+1-202-270- 1547 (m)

In London (UK) Clare Oxborrow, Friends of the Earth at +44-2075661716 or +44- 7712843211 (m)

 

 

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