BIO Statement Regarding Science Report on Biodiversity and Biotech Crops

(Dr. Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization today issued the following statement regarding a paper to be published in the September 1 issue of Science titled Predictions of Biodiversity Response to Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant Crops.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 31, 2000)--This report is a purely theoretical model and cannot in any way be construed as a real world study. It has everything to do with counting weeds, and nothing to do with biotechnology, said Dr. Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

The authors sought to determine how weed populations respond to effective weed controla very common agricultural practice that is not unique to biotech crops. In fact, farmers routinely strive to gain the highest possible crop yields by reducing the number of weeds competing for the same natural resources of water, soil nutrients and sunlight.

On the second question, the impact of herbicide resistant crops on biodiversity and specifically skylarks, we should consider that farmers’ concerns for the environment have led to numerous improved agricultural practices. Both actual field experience and numerous studies have been acknowledged by the National Academy of Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency as showing that crops improved through biotechnology lead to greater biodiversity.

Herbicide-tolerant crops, which are produced through biotechnology and other means also promote reduced tillage systems which are proven to improve wildlife habitat for species ranging from birds to soil invertebrates. By using reduced tillage and leaving plant stubble standing in the field, there is less soil disturbance and increased food supplies for birds, including song birds.

In fact, the greatest threat to biodiversity is loss of wildlife habitat which is often converted to low-yield agriculture. Technologies such as biotechnology that increase productivity on existing cultivated acreage will help meet increasing world food demand and reduce pressure to encroach further on wildlife habitat.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) represents more than 900 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and more than 27 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.


Experts on avian wildlife:

Geoffrey Hill, Ph.D.Associate ProfessorAuburn University, Alabama 334-844-9269

Bill Palmer, Ph.D.Adjunct Professor/Research ScientistTall Timbers Research Station - Univ. of Georgia, Mississippi State Univ., North Carolina State Univ.850-893-4153 ext. 226

Richard E. Warner, Ph.D.Assistant Dean of Research College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental StudiesUniversity of Illinois 217-333-0240