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Words in the News
 
Friday 17 October 2003
 
British GM crop test results revealed
 
Crops Following a 3-year investigation by the British government into the effects of genetically modified (GM) crops on the environment, British scientists found that 2 of the 3 crops tested have a harmful effect on wildlife. But the test results are not clear enough to help Britain decide whether it should use GM agriculture. This report from Richard Black:
 
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The trials investigated three crops: oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize. With each crop, scientists compared conventional varieties against plants which had been genetically modified to make them resistant to a specific modern herbicide. The scientists found that with rape and beet, GM fields contained fewer weeds and insects, including bees and butterflies; whereas with maize, GM fields contained more weeds and insects. Farmers of course want fewer weeds - but conservationists want to protect natural plants and insects.

The trials are an emotive issue in Britain and the government has issued a cautious response, saying it will take further advice before making policy. But the trials leave a number of environmental questions unanswered. Although they're being presented as comparing GM crops with conventional varieties, in fact they're comparing different herbicides - the modern ones used on GM fields against the older chemicals used on non-GM varieties - and one of those older chemicals, atrazine, has just been banned by the EU. The trials didn't study the impact of genes moving from GM plants into the environment. However the results are interpreted in Britain, the scientists emphasise that they don't automatically apply to other crops and other countries; but they suggest this kind of trial is a model other nations might use in evaluating whether to introduce GM crops.

Richard Black, BBC, London
 
 
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trials
 
series of tests that last for a set amount of time or are done a set number of times
 
investigated
 
carefully looked at all the details
 
conventional
 
something conventional is normal because it’s been used or made for a long time
 
resistant
 
unaffected
 
herbicide
 
a chemical that’s used to destroy plants, particularly weeds
 
GM (genetically modified)
 
a genetically modified field or crop has been physically altered and grown by changing its genes. Genes are biological material from living cells which carry and pass information about how people and things look and develop
 
policy
 
official plans and guidelines
 
banned
 
no longer allowed
 
interpreted
 
understood or analyzed
 
evaluating
 
deciding on the importance, quality and value of something based on its good and bad features
 
 
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