17 Feb 1999
The DETR report on GMOs and biodiversity states that ...the approval of certain GM crops for commercial use may encourage further intensification of agriculture. (p. 9). It suggests two ways in which this could occur:
1. A reduction in the need for crop rotations
2. Increased herbicide use.
The report notes that good crop rotations are important for maintaining a variety of wildlife species, since associated weeds and invertebrates may change depending on which crop is planted and how it is managed. Fallow periods are also important for maintaining soil fertility. If the need for crop rotations is reduced by the introduction of new or different crop management methods, then habitat diversity will decline, and species may be threatened.
If a GM crop were introduced with resistance to a soil borne pathogen such as rhizomania,then the need for crop rotations would also be reduced.
The table below lists species from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, produced by the Government,which have already declined as a result of reduced habitat diversity in the agricultural landscape.
| Brown hare |
|substantial decline from early 1960s||Reason for decline is conversion of grassland to arable, and loss of habitat diversity in the agricultural landscape.|
|Greater Horseshoe bat||See table 2||
| Corncrake |
| A globally threatened species. |
Over past 100 years - sustained decline in the UK.
- 1970 - 3250 calling males
- 1993 - only 478 calling males.
| Loss of traditional grassland mosaics. |
On increased herbicide use , the DETR report notes that ...the introduction of a herbicide tolerent crop, eg. glufosinate ammonium tolerent oil seed rape, would allow the application of this broad spectrum active ingredient to the crop to control a wide range of weeds which would occur within it. But because glufosinate ammonium is an effective broad spectrum herbicide, there are concerns that its over-enthusiastic use would result in damage to hedgerows and a level of weed control beyond that neceesary for optimum crop yield will be achieved, removing an important food source for inverebrates and birds.
The table below lists those Biodiversity Action Plan species which have suffered
declines because of use of herbicides, etc, in agriculture.
TABLE 2: BAP SPECIED DECLINED BECAUSE OF
USE OF HERBICIDES, ETC IN AGRICULTURE
SPECIES DECLINE REASON FOR DECLINE
| Pipistrelle Bat |
| Population declined 70% from 1978 to 1993 |
| Reduction in insect prey abundance due to high intensity farming practice. |
Loss of insect rich feeding habitats
|Greater Horseshoe Bat||During this century, declined significantly across north Europe|| Reduction in insect prey abundance, especially loss of old pasture, due to high intensity farming practice. |
Loss of insect rich feeding habitats
| Skylark |
This is a rapidly decling species whose numbers on farmland have fallen by over 50% in the last 25 years. This is a species whose fate is intimately bound up with the management of lowland agriculture.
(Report from the UK Biodiversity Steering Group, setting targets and actions for English Nature)
|1969-1991 - UK breeding population on farmland declined by 54%.|| Intensive management of arable fields has reduced |
ephemeral weeds and insect prey through the use of agrochemicals.
| Grey Partridge |
| UK population declined by 50%between 1969 and 1990 |
|Reduced food supplies and sources for chick food through intensive ise of pesticide and herbicides.|
| Song thrush |
|73% decline on farmland, ....since mid 1970s.||Changes in farming affecting food supply, .. and increased use of pesticides|
| Great Crested Newt |
| 2% decline over 5 years in 1980s. |
| Pollution and toxic effects of agrochemicals. |
| High brown fritillary |
| Now extinct in 94% of fromer range. |
1994 - only 53 definite colonies. -many v. small and isolated.
| Agricultural improvement |
Cessation of grazing
| Mole Cricket |
| Used to occur in 33 vice-counties |
...may now be extinct
| Intensive mechanical cultivation |
Heavy insecticide use
| Creeping Marshwort |
| 1960/70s in Ox, Bucks, Scotlands,SE Yorks, Norfolk and Suffolk. Now only one site in Oxfordshire. |
|Agricultural intensification including use of herbicides|
| Western Ramping Fumitory |
|Cornwall||Declined because of increased herbicide use|
Our evidence shows the shocking extent of the damage to wildlife and plants which the headlong dash to GM crops could cause. Like the Government wildlife advisers English Nature, and the author of the suppressed DETR report, we are demanding a freeze on commercial growing of GM crops until the environmental risks attached have been properly researched, assessed and debated. Rampant GM crops could be the final blow for precious British species such such as the brown hare, skylark,corn bunting and the linnet. This is too high a price to pay to boost Monsanto's profits and save the Prime Minister's face.
Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881