Evaluating the Ecological Impacts of Cultivating Genetically Modified Herbicide-Tolerant (GMHT) Oilseed Rape and Maize

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Resource or Project Abstract

With the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops there has been concern about their potential impact, particularly their possible ecological impact. This report follows from earlier research that examined this issue in detail and investigates the potential biodiversity impact of two GM crops that are most likely to suit Irish agronomic conditions. These are glyphosate or glufosinate herbicide-tolerant (HT) maize and oilseed rape. The research reported here is an extensive analysis of the scientific literature on the subject and was carried out between August 2009 and July 2010. There are several key conclusions from this analysis. There are many ?wild? species related to oilseed rape in Ireland, none of which are native and many of which are highly unlikely to survive when crossed with the current oilseed rape crop plant (Brassica napus). The only exception is wild turnip (Brassica rapa), which is an earlier oilseed crop now no longer farmed but anecdotally present in marginal habitats. Worldwide, there have been ongoing and intensive surveys of the potential for GMHT B. napus to transfer herbicide tolerance to B. rapa. While it has been shown that this will indeed occur, the primary issue remains the consequence of this gene flow event: that is, what will happen the resulting offspring? Critically, in the absence of a selection pressure (spraying with the herbicide for which they have a tolerance), these GM hybrid individuals have no physical advantage over their non-GM neighbours. As they also contain a significant portion of a crop genome, they will not have the competitive ability that weed populations possess and will therefore not survive over time. In Ireland, marginal habitats are not routinely sprayed so it can be concluded that GM hybrids with a HT trait will not proliferate and spread. Separately, there is no likelihood of maize impacting on wild relatives as none exist in Ireland. In real-world conditions, there are some scenarios where accidental spraying may occur and where management arrangements may give rise to an opportunity for a GMHT plant to prevail in the landscape. This was examined and presented in a series of five hypothetical scenarios. It was shown that there are no credible scenarios where a GMHT crop can persist or prevail over time any more than a non- GM crop outside of the confines of a managed field environment. Furthermore, it is also shown that it is in the management of the GM or non-GM crop that the potential for biodiversity impact is at its greatest. Glyphosate and glufosinate toxicity was examined in detail and it was concluded that these two compounds have significantly less toxicity than those compounds currently in use across conventional systems. Using a recently developed index of biodiversity impact (CINMa1), the two GMHT crops were subjected to an analysis of their potential for impact. It was shown that in the management of GMHT maize there is the potential for benefiting landscape biodiversity. The same may be said for oilseed rape management, but there is some likelihood for transfer of genetic material to a wild relative. The potential impact of this is minimal Currently, available data do not show that the introduction of GMHT crops may have any increased detrimental effect on biodiversity in Ireland. Glyphosate has been shown to be a low toxic threat and extensive research has failed to demonstrate that it has a long-term negative impact on soil and water biodiversity. In contrast, by using the newly created CINMa index, it is shown that such an introduction may have a net benign effect with the reduction of farm management intensity and chemical toxicity over time. This assumption requires field validation before any conclusive deductions can be made. This will entail a series of field trials. and there is a net beneficial impact as with maize.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Ewen Mullins
Teagasc Crops Research Centre

Dr. Marcus J. Collier

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Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_69_Mullins_GMOs_web.pdf  (0.52 Mb)
Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_69_Mullins_GMO_prn.pdf  (1.08 Mb)
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Author(s)Mullins, E. Collier, J.M.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationEvaluating the Ecological Impacts of Cultivating Genetically Modified Herbicide-Tolerant (GMHT) Oilseed Rape and Maize
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL https://eparesearch.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=8450e13d-b70e-102e-a0a4-f81fb11d7d1c
Unique Identifier8450e13d-b70e-102e-a0a4-f81fb11d7d1c
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-05-20

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Mullins, E. Collier, J.M.   "Evaluating the Ecological Impacts of Cultivating Genetically Modified Herbicide-Tolerant (GMHT) Oilseed Rape and Maize". 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 https://eparesearch.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=8450e13d-b70e-102e-a0a4-f81fb11d7d1c (Last Accessed: 2024-05-20)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL https://eparesearch.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/display?isoID=206
Resource KeywordsGMO crops genetically modified ecological biodiversity maize
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2007-B-DS-1-S1
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeLand-use, Soils, and Transport
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): 3
Project Start Date Monday 1st January 2007 (01-01-2007)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 1st January 2007 (01-01-2007)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Friday 31st December 2010 (31-12-2010)
Published on SAFERWednesday 13th April 2011 (13-04-2011)
Date of Last EditThursday 26th May 2011 at 14:06:42 (26-05-2011)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 26th May 2011 at 14:06:42 (26-05-2011)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
This was a desk study. However all analysis and methodologies were carried out in the Irish context. This research was carried out by critically assessing the published literature (peer-reviewed papers, conference proceedings, books and edited book chapters) and through interviews with key researchers in the area of GMHT research and development.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The management of the Irish landscape is in continual flux and future land-use patterns are unknown (Ewert et al., 2005; Rounsevell et al., 2006; Levidow and Boschert, 2008; Angus et al., 2009; Burgess and Morris, 2009). This gives rise to concern over the future impact of agricultural activities on the environment, especially on landscape biodiversity. One issue relates to the potential impact on the Irish agri-environment of cultivating genetically modified (GM) crops suited to the Irish tillage sector. Since the lifting of the European Union (EU) moratorium on growing GM crops, Ireland has not adopted GM cropping regimes. However, as new data and new crops become available and as the technology expands to meet global consumption necessities, it is pragmatic to assume that Irish farmers will soon be afforded the choice of certain GM varieties tailored to Irish agri-environmental conditions (O?Brien and Mullins, 2009).
Supplementary Information
Links To Other Related Resources
  http://erc.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/displayISO19115.jsp?isoID=139 (Opens in a new window)
  http://www.agresearch.teagasc.ie/oakpark/ (Opens in a new window)

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