18 February 2000

Herbicide tolerant OSR same as conventional

HERBICIDE tolerant crops received a ringing endorsement from scientists in Brussels last week.

Representatives from the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium met to discuss the results of the three-year, Europe-wide Familiarisation and Acceptance of Crops incorporating Transgenic Technology project.

Its conclusion was that transgenic herbicide tolerant oilseed rape does not differ significantly from conventional types.

"In the sense of fertiliser, disease management and all aspects other than the herbicide tolerance we have found no real difference," said HGCAs Paul Meakin, UK co-ordinator of the project.

Yields of the transgenic varieties used in the trials were similar to Synergy and Pronto. That alone would not warrant their introduction commercially, the report notes. But higher yielding herbicide tolerant varieties are in the pipeline. "If the government allow us to go ahead commercially in 2003 we expect to be able to offer a significant yield increase on current hybrid standards," comments Aventis head of seeds and crop improvement John Hammond.

In NIAB trials last summer a more recent Aventis herbicide tolerant hybrid yielded 23-24% more than the standard controls, he adds.

Margins over herbicide costs were best with the tolerant types, with a single autumn or spring glufosinate-ammonium spray showing £18/ha or £23/ha (£7 or £9/acre) benefit, respectively. By contrast, metazachlor (as in Butisan) gave a negative margin.

&#8226 Public attitude to GM crops in the UK appears to be the most negative in Europe, said Dr Meakin after the Brussels meeting. Health scares, organised public pressure groups and the use of anti-GM messages as a marketing tool by supermarkets are to blame, he believes. &#42