A study published today in Science found that the planting of genetically engineered sugar beets could cause a dramatic decline in England’s already waning skylark population. The British researchers argue that sugar beets engineered to be resistant to herbicides will allow farmers to use more powerful sprays to wipe out weeds, possibly leading to a 90 percent reduction in the weed that produces seeds crucial to the skylark’s diet. The study is likely to find a concerned audience in England, where the skylark has been celebrated in poetry and suspicion of genetically engineered foods is already high. Some American scientists, however, questioned the study’s reliance on computer models rather than field research.

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