Chardon Report V - Concluding Comments

Report V, May 2002 
 

Summary

[PDF version of the full report (310KB)]

1. Introduction

The preceding four reports have focused on various aspects of the undesirability of introducing Chardon LL (or any other genetically engineered crop) into commercial agriculture. In this concluding report, we present additional support for that position.

2. Dangers of the applied herbicide

The herbicide ‘Liberty’ required for Chardon LL is also manufactured by Aventis. However, it fails to kill some serious weeds and disease-causing fungi, while harming important beneficial fungi. It is not as effective as had been thought and other herbicides are being used.

Friends of the Earth sought evidence from the UK Government of the safety of Liberty, which is based on glufosinate ammonium (often called simply ‘glufosinate’). However, Aventis has taken the Government to the High Court on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

The reason that Aventis is so concerned to avoid revealing the evidence for the safety of its product may lie in an article by Prof. Joe Cummins, who states that there is ‘clear evidence that the herbicide caused birth defects in experimental animals’ and that the ‘herbicide also caused miscarriage and reduced conception in treated mothers.’ Other reports show that ‘glufosinate has toxic effects on humans and animals, particularly affecting the nervous system.’

3. Design of farm-scale trials

The trials were designed only to compare the effects, on a limited number of species of wildlife (not even including mammals), of the chemical system used on GM plants with that used on conventional crops. Farm-scale evaluations do not even require that the GM plant should be compared with its parent non-GM variety; they require only that ‘equivalent’ varieties be planted. Any differences between the varieties introduce extra and unnecessary variables into the experiment

The full report shows photographs of the trial of oilseed rape at Munlochy, Scotland, in February 2002. They are relevant to Chardon LL because all trials are designed according to the same principles. In the Munlochy trial, different varieties of oilseed rape were indeed used. There are clear differences between the two sides of the plot. For example, the sizes and colours of the GM and non-GM plants are not the same, and the ground cover is not the same. The non-GM plants are distinctly healthier than the GM plants. Possibly the two crops would look similar if both were receiving the same chemical regime, in which case the use of the required herbicide (Liberty) on the GM crop has caused significant stunting of the plants.

4. Testing of the safety of GM crops

Only two animal-feeding tests were offered by Aventis, both of which are irrelevant for the intended consumers. The tests were both poorly designed and poorly analysed. Yet Aventis has presumably put into its application for acceptance of Chardon LL by the EU the best possible data to prove the safety of its crop.

5. Poor control of genetic insertion

 

Genetic engineering is still so poorly understood by its practitioners that they are unaware of what is actually being inserted in the process. Roundup Ready soya beans were amongst the first crops to be grown commercially; but it is only in the last few years, when independent scientists have examined the inserted components, that this ignorance has been exposed: The scientists found ‘repeated fragments of the inserted genes’ and ‘an extra unidentifiable genetic sequence’ that has unknown effects.

6. Lack of published evidence of safety

Despite repeated claims by the biotechnology industry that GM foods have undergone extensive testing and that these safety studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals, only a handful of such published cases actually exist. Researchers who have tried to find this evidence in the public domain, or who have applied to the industry for such information, have been able to access only a very few papers.

7. Fraud in testing and inadequate regulation

 

In 1999, one of the GM trials reported favourable data after there was deliberate tampering with unfavourable experimental results. The government decided simply to ignore that experiment altogether, instead of taking account of the poor performance of the GM crop.

It has been reported that ‘One in three UK scientists working in government or recently privatized laboratories has been asked to alter research findings …’ ‘Reasons given were: to suit the customer’s preferred outcome (17 per cent); to obtain further contracts (10 per cent); and to prevent publication (3 per cent).’

Laxity in regulation is rampant both in Britain and in the United States. At last, however, one official body has expressed concern: ‘The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report at the end of February criticizing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for inadequately protecting the environment from the risks of GM plants.’

8. Wider consequences of growing GM crops

8.1 Biodiversity

A summary of 23 research projects shows conclusively that organic farming supports much greater biodiversity than does conventional farming. Since GM crops are also dependent on chemicals or on transgenes (artificially inserted genes) that cause toxicity, similar findings as for conventionally grown crops can be expected in a comparison of organic and GM crops.

8.2 Greenhouse gases and soil

Organisms in the soil are important in decomposing water pollutants before they enter watercourses and also in locking-up carbon in the humus within the soil. This carbon sequestration is important in regard to global warming.

9. Who benefits from GM crops?

Only the manufacturers of GM seeds and of their accompanying chemicals will benefit, enjoying huge profits during the time that GM crops continue to be grown. During that time, the manufacturers will also have engineered a stranglehold upon the food chain; this, indeed, is their overtly stated aim: In 1996, the President of Monsanto’s Ceregen Division, said: ‘What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain.’

Accompanying the increase in the wealth of corporations will be an increase in their power and influence over Government policy, which is already excessive.

10. General summary

GM crops in the United States and around the world have had many failures, even disasters. The chemicals and monocultural farming for which they are intended produce results that are in many cases inferior to those produced by ecological agriculture. The chemicals are harmful to soil ecology and to animals and human beings. GM crops will, by the Government’s own admission, gradually pollinate and pollute conventionally grown and organically grown varieties, leaving British consumers without the choice the Government has promised. With their unreliable performance and the risks they pose for the environment and for health, there is little justification for allowing such crops to be grown in this country.