Azara Blog: Surprise, seeds last longer in fields than expected

Blog home page | Blog archive

Google   Bookmark and Share

Date published: 2008/04/02

The BBC says:

Seeds of some genetically modified crops can endure in soil for at least 10 years, scientists have discovered.

Researchers in Sweden examined a field planted with experimental oilseed rape a decade ago, and found transgenic specimens were still growing there.

This was despite intensive efforts in the intervening years to remove seeds.

No GM crop has been found to endure so long; and critics say it shows that genetically modified organisms cannot be contained once released.
Non-GM varieties were used in the 10-year-old study as well, and some of these had also survived.

"I wouldn't say that the transgenic varieties are able to survive better," said Dr D'Hertefeldt. "It's just that oilseed rape is a tough plant."

Jeremy Sweet, a former head of the UK's National Institute of Agricultural Botany and now an independent consultant on biotech crops, agreed.

"It's been known for some time that oilseed rape is a bit of a problem because of the survival of its seed," he told BBC News.

"It means that if farmers want to swap [from growing GM rape] to conventional varieties, they will have to wait for a number of years."
Two years ago, the UK government published a consultation paper (which refers to England only - Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland regulations are dealt with by the devolved administrations) including proposals on issues such as minimum distances between fields growing biotech and conventional varieties, compensation, and labelling of GM foods.

Campaign groups say the proposals are too weak, notably that farmers would not be liable for environmental impacts of the crops they grow.

Surprise, Mother Nature trumps all.

If "campaign groups" want GM farmers to "be liable for environmental impacts of the crops they grow" then hopefully they also want non-GM farmers to be liable in the same way. Anyone who lives anywhere near an oilseed rape field will now and again find oilseed rape plants growing in their garden. Should they be able to sue the farmer? (And it is not just oilseed rape plants, of course. Should you be able to sue your neighbour for dandelions?)

And this idea that it is the end of the world if there is an odd GM plant in a generally non-GM field is driven by ideology rather than common sense or science. Why should farmers "have to wait for a number of years"? Only because "campaign groups" dictate that this should be the case because they get hysterical about the odd molecule for which they have religious objections.

Europe, as usual, is extremely backwards when it comes to GM crops. The BBC unfortunately fails to give a sensible analysis.

All material not included from other sources is copyright For further information or questions email: info [at] cambridge2000 [dot] com (replace "[at]" with "@" and "[dot]" with ".").