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Evidence of GM cross-fertilisation leading to creation of new superweed

25 July, 2005

Sinn Féin Environment spokesperson, North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has said that scientific evidence that cross fertilisation between genetically modified oilseed rape with a distantly related plant, charlock, has created a highly resistant superweed should lead to a radical rethink on the issue of GM crops and foodstuff by the British and Irish governments.

Cross fertilisation between GM and charlock had been discounted as virtually impossible. The new form of charlock was discovered during a follow up to the British government's 3-year long trials, by scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the government research station at Winfrith in Dorset.

Mr McGuigan said:

"This should be a wake up call, particularly for the British and Irish governments who have been trying force through the case for GM crops and foodstuff despite mounting opposition and scientific evidence.

"The British government's refusal to announce these findings of the follow-up study is even more alarming.

"Cross fertilisation and the creation of new hybrid plants is a huge concern, particularly for farmers if it leads to new superweeds that are difficult and expensive to control.

"The likelihood of this type of cross fertilisation may be low, and it is two years since the government trials ended. Yet, the fact that we have this new hybrid and also a herbicide resistant form of two other weeds from this site is further evidence of the need for British and Irish governments to rethink the current enthusiasm for GM crops.

"There only has to be the creation of a single hybrid species with a genetically modified super resistant gene for there to be very serious consequences not just for the natural habitat and biodiversity but also for industries such as farming. Any such hybrid could spread very rapidly.

"The initial results of the farm-scale British study on GM that ended two years ago showed that GM oilseed rape and sugar beet were bad for biodiversity because the herbicide used to kill the weeds around the crops wiped out more wildlife than with conventionally grown crops.

"Sinn Féin believe that both the British and Irish governments need to have an honest debate about their intentions to introduce GM crops into Ireland and that farmers and consumers should be aware of the long-term environmental consequences of introducing GM crops into the natural environment.

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