GM crops are a good thing

25 August 1998

GM crops ‘are a good thing’

GENETICALLY modified (GM) crops can save farmers money, reduce chemical spraying and create a better habitat for birds and insects, scientists at the Institute of Arable Crops Research claimed yesterday (Monday).

Trials of GM sugar-beet resistant to a broad-spectrum pesticide have shown much higher levels of weeds and insects than are found in equivalent crops.

The trials have shown that the weeds attract aphids that would otherwise attack the sugar-beet, as well as drawing in such insects as ladybirds, which feed on the aphids.

The findings run counter to claims from environmental groups that gene modification will leave fields barren of wildlife and promote the growth of “superweeds” immune to all treatment.

The scientists said the cost of insecticide and herbicide spraying could be reduced to £24 an acre, compared with up to £140 an acre in fields growing ordinary sugar-beet. If weeds are completely untreated, crop yields per acre can be reduced by at least 80%.

The claims were made during a briefing at a trial plot in Cambridgeshire of sugar-beet developed by Monsanto. The trials suggest the modified sugar-beet need to be sprayed only twice, rather than up to seven times as is usual .

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