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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 November, 2003, 04:42 GMT
Birds 'facing rape seed hunger'
Oilseed rape crops
Oilseed rape crops were subject to GM trials
The failure of the winter oilseed rape crop may force some of the country's best-loved birds and bees to starve.

Naturalists say that rape seeds form a vital part of the diet of linnets, turtle doves and reed buntings, while bees rely on winter rape's pollen.

The dry autumn has drastically reduced the oilseed rape crop this year, leaving fields brown and barren.

Rape oil has been used in the UK since medieval times but the bright yellow crop was introduced in the 1970s.

GM attacks

Many people living in the countryside say the crop is unattractive and causes hay-fever.

But winter rape oil pollen is relied on by bees, especially bumble bees, early in the year.

Rape also has small seeds similar to the weed seeds that sustained many birds before the advent of intensive farming.

Across a swathe of England's most fertile land, from the Channel to the Wash, farmers are reporting brown fields where there should be sturdy green rape plants.

The exceptionally dry autumn means tens of thousands of seeds have failed to germinate, leaving thin pickings for wildlife next year.

Oilseed rape is one of the crops subject to genetically modified trials and fields have been attacked by campaigners.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Sarah Mukherjee
"Conservationists fear that the bird species that rely most heavily on rape seed may have nothing to eat next year"



SEE ALSO:
All sides claim GM 'victory'
16 Oct 03  |  Science/Nature


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