Environmental Audit Committee

5 March 2004


GM Nature report neither robust nor credible

The Environmental Audit Committee today published its Report, GM Food - Evaluating the Farm Scale Trials, HC 90, the Second EAC Report of Session 2003-4.  The Report, unanimously agreed by a cross-Party group of MP's, examines the design and operation of the recent farm scale evaluations (FSEs). It looks into the background of FSEs and puts the results into the context of the Government-led debate on GM, and concerns about the general decline of biodiversity in the farmed environment.

Amongst its 27 Recommendations and Conclusions is one which questions the validity of the FSEs results on the basis of the use of atrazine and other triazines on the conventional fodder maize crop used in part of the trials:

"We are concerned that the GMHT forage maize trials were based on an unsatisfactory, indeed invalid, comparison.  It is vital that the Government permit no commercial planting of GMHT forage maize until  that crop is thoroughly re-trialled against a non-GM equivalent grown without the use of atrazine." (Paragraph 14)

In response to queries about how this conclusion fits in with recently published findings in Nature magazine which suggest  that GMHT fodder maize would still be better for biodiversity in a post-atrazine environment, Peter Ainsworth MP, Chairman of EAC, said: "It is quite clear that this research is highly speculative.  It appears that meaningful results from only four fields which did not use atrazine or other triazines in the trials can be examined with any confidence, and that this number of fields provides no statistically sound basis upon which to extrapolate results with any certainty whatsoever. Professor Pollock of ACRE who supervised the FSEs told us as much in oral evidence.  It is ironic that this research comes from the same scientists who ran the FSEs and made so much of the need for those trials to be on such a large scale in order to ensure a sound statistical data-set for results.  In order to give themselves a better basis for extrapolation, these scientists have actually included some triazine  fields - despite the fact that triazines are to be banned.  The article itself says that its findings are  a "tentative approximation to future weed abundances". This is neither robust nor particularly credible science."

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Notes for Editors

The Committee announced its inquiry into GM Food - Evaluating the Farm Scale Trials in a press release on 18 September 2003.  Details of all the Committee's press releases and inquiries, together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's Internet home page.