Predicting the Impact of Coexistence- Guided, Genetically Modified Cropping on Irish Biodiversity

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Resource or Project Abstract

At present no genetically modified (GM) crops are grown in Ireland because the current suite of commercialised GM crops is not suited to the Irish agri-environment. Farmer surveys clearly show willingness on the behalf of Irish farmers to adopt specific GM traits (e.g. blight tolerance, see if they will provide an economic and/or environmental benefit. Therefore as the 2nd and 3rd generation of GM crops proceed through research pipelines, it is broadly accepted that in the near future Irish farmers will be afforded the choice as to whether they wish to adopt GM technology into their systems. Their choices will be heavily influenced by the economic realities of the day. Considering the future environmental (e.g. climate change) and legislative challenges (e.g. pesticides regulations), the crops with the most potential for modification from an Irish perspective include oilseed rape, maize, potato, barley and wheat. The principal traits that would benefit Irish farmers would be herbicide tolerance (HT), nitrogen-use efficiency and enhanced fungal resistance. While assessing the potential biodiversity impacts associated with each of these traits, it became evident that minimal research has been completed into gauging the impact of conventional agriculture on species and habitats in the Irish landscape. Only 21 papers investigating the impact of conventional crop cultivation on Irish biodiversity have been published within the past 30 years. Principally, these studies have concluded that conventional crop cultivation has had an adverse impact on biodiversity on Irish farms, with 15 of the 21 studies demonstrating negative trends for the taxa investigated. It is clear that as with all forms of tillage agriculture, there is a high likelihood that the potential impacts of GM crops on Irish biodiversity will be both positive and negative. When this issue is examined at a macro scale, the net potential impacts are likely to be beneficial towards the wider diversity of the Irish landscape. The potential modifications that would suit current Irish agricultural practices are designed solely to assist deriving greater profitability from lower inputs, implying that management regimes on Irish GM farms will be different from non-GM farms. As a follow-on consequence of these new management schemes, GM farms will have lower inputs, less disturbance and lower resource requirements. The benefits to biodiversity are therefore expected to be broadly beneficial but this will be dependent upon the GM trait adopted and the level of compliance by the GM farmer to the recommended crop management. Based on the number of field trials under way across the EU ( at present, it is predicted that the first GM crops suited to the Irish agri-environment (e.g. HT maize) will be available to farmers by 2015. While it was not possible to complete a comparative analysis between the potential impact of GM and the actual impact of non-GM tillage systems for this study due to a paucity of data on non-GM systems. An opportunity exists to rectify this through the establishment of a national biodiversity monitoring and evaluation programme for tillage systems which would provide a baseline against which biodiversity loss, mitigation or gain may be assessed and scientifically reviewed prior to GM crop adoption in Ireland.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Ewen Mullins

Dr. Marcus Collier

Dr. Martin O'Brien

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Data, Files, Information Objects Related To This Project Resource

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Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_39_Mullins_Genetics_prn.pdf  (2.39 Mb)
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_39_Mullins_Genetics_web.pdf  (1.54 Mb)

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Author(s)Mullins, E. Collier, M. O'Brien, M.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationPredicting the Impact of Coexistence- Guided, Genetically Modified Cropping on Irish Biodiversity
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier82086e5d-4a88-102d-b891-8d8f2407b579
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-07-23

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Mullins, E. Collier, M. O'Brien, M.   "Predicting the Impact of Coexistence- Guided, Genetically Modified Cropping on Irish Biodiversity". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-07-23)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsGMO Crops Biodiversity herbicide tolerance nitrogenuse efficiency fungal resistance
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2006-B-MS-46
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeBiodiversity
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Tuesday 3rd January 2006 (03-01-2006)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 3rd January 2006 (03-01-2006)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 1st December 2009 (01-12-2009)
Published on SAFERMonday 4th January 2010 (04-01-2010)
Date of Last EditTuesday 12th April 2011 at 10:54:45 (12-04-2011)
Datasets or Files Updated On Monday 4th January 2010 at 13:50:33 (04-01-2010)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
The geographical bounds are the island of Ireland. Some GIS modelling work is presented with shows the formation of ?GM clusters? applied to the specific use of agricultural land use in Ireland.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
A key challenge for countries like Ireland is to produce sufficient supplies of food, feed and fuel, without compromising on public health or negatively impacting the environment. As we progress through the technology era, certain agricultural technologies (e.g. GM crops) have been championed to maximise production while minimising environmental impact. Yet, multiple arguments have been made to counter such a claim, which has led to a polarisation of opinions and a plethora of generic commentaries being made in regard to the impact of this technology. Yet, few studies within the EU have conducted a critical needs analysis to assess the potential of specific GM traits in light of issues such as climate change, increased environmental legislation (e.g. the EU Water Framework, Nitrates Directive, proposed reform to the Pesticide Directive, CAP reform), mitigating biodiversity loss and sustainable biofuel production.
Supplementary Information
A major output of the research is the WEBSITE

One feature of the website, the news feed, is updated regularly with verified information that is up to date and relevant. The aim of the website is to support the public in understanding the issues associated with GM crop cultivation. Thus, the site is updated regularly with research findings of most relevance to Ireland. The website is written in clear and unambiguous language and much of the site content is made up of answers to commonly asked questions. Until the creation of this site, there were no publicly accessible locations with comprehensive information for consumers, researchers and producers. There is quite a large amount of publicly available information today, compared to when the GM issue first began to cause consumer concern, resulting in the moratorium of GM crops in the EU. However, much of this information is biased or inaccurate due to the many advocacy coalitions who derive their motivations from differing ethical, political, philosophical and ecological viewpoints. In addition, the GM issue has transgressed into wider discussions on globalisation, justice and morality, and so it is difficult to find impartial advice and accurate, up-to-date information. The Teagasc ?gmoInfo? website is designed to filter the global information, in addition to the realities of the Irish farming landscape, and to convey this in a manner that is accessible and understandable to consumers, farmers and researchers.
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