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Spain: Bt maize keeps going


(21 January 2011) While the cultivation total of maize in Spain was reduced by eleven per cent in 2010 in comparison to 2009, the share occupied by Bt maize remained constant at 21 per cent. The only European country to do so, Spain maintains large-scale fields of Bt maize that total 68,000 hectares – and a new poll suggests that this will at least remain so.

In the provinces of Catalonia and Aragón, two hundred farmers took part in a poll conducted in November 2010 on behalf of the non-profit organisation Fundación Antama. Participants were split between growers of genetically modified (GM) maize that produces the insecticidal Bt protein and growers of exclusively conventional maize varieties. No farmers of either group had experienced difficulties in the sale of their products.

Ninety-three per cent of farmers who used Bt maize in 2010 stated the intention to do so again in 2011 and 79 per cent indicated being “very satisfied” with its performance. Several advantages of the GM were cited in the poll as being significant. These included the resulting health of the plant and its maize ears (the most important quality for 48 per cent of respondents), ease of fieldwork (44 per cent), yield enhancement (41 per cent) and economic advantages (33 per cent). Nonetheless, for 98 per cent of farmers the most decisive factor in the choice of GM maize remained its provision of effective protection against the European corn borer.

Most of the respondents submitted a trade declaration with regard to the use of GM maize and sixty-five per cent stated no problem with the idea of Bt maize and the regulations imposed by its use, nor with the measures necessary for its coexistence with conventional agriculture. Only one quarter of the farmers regarded the necessary establishment of ‘refuge areas’ as a disadvantage: as islands of conventional maize planted in proximity to the GM maize, their presence hinders the development of Bt resistance among the pests.

Similar results in attitude were noted for respondents who do not use Bt maize: while most declared having little or no problems to date with the corn borer, approximately one half would switch to Bt maize in the case of heavy infestation.

 

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An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

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