GM maize less harmful to wildlife than conventional varieties, claims UK study

March 9, 2004

Brussels, 08 Mar 2004

A team of British scientists has claimed that genetically modified (GM) maize is less damaging to wildlife than conventional varieties.

The scientists, who have been studying the effect of a EU wide ban on a toxic weedkiller called atrazine, found that growing GM maze had no adverse effects in terms of biodiversity.

'A large reduction in weed numbers was found when atrazine was applied before the maize crop had emerged from the ground. Other patterns of conventional weed killer used were less effective, but still reduced weed numbers more than the weed control practised in the GM herbicide-tolerant maize,' said Professor Joe Perry who led the research.

The study found that the amount of wildlife living in fields of GM maize was two to three times higher than those in fields of conventional maze sprayed with atrazine.

One of the problems with growing fodder maize - corn for animal feed rather than for human consumption - is that it requires significant amounts of weedkiller to prevent it being asphyxiated by native weeds.

Non-GM maize is best grown by first spraying the field with atrazine to kill off the weeds. However this persistent herbicide is too effective in terms of killing off wildlife.

GM maize, on the other hand, can be sprayed with broad-spectrum herbicides, in effect allowing some weeds to persist in order to provide food for insects and birds.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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