How to monitor genetically modified crops in Europe
Clarification of whether or not genetically modified (GM) crops can have different effects in different parts of the EU is the aim of a new research project.
What are the effects of growing genetically modified plants on the environment? Is biodiversity modified? Are there regional differences within Europe in such effects? And how should GM crops be monitored in the field?
These important issues are tackled via the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) guidelines under the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, assessment can be improved by basing it on more facts and field results. This is where a new four-year EU research project comes into the picture – a project in which Aarhus University is involved along with 22 other institutions from 16 countries.
The international research project will help to improve evaluation of GM crops that are cultivated on a larger scale in the EU. Potatoes and maize, which are two genetically modified crops currently approved for cultivation in the EU, will be used as case studies in the project.
Danish maize fields
Some of the field research projects will be carried out by scientists from Aarhus University. Pairs of plots cultivated with regular maize and insect-resistant transgenic maize will be compared. The scientists will characterize and compare effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services (biosystems from which humans derive benefit) with identical research plots with maize in four other partner countries to generate a continent-wide database. The data will form a reliable foundation for comparing effects on agro-ecosystems across Europe.
The scientists from Aarhus University will also help to elucidate how things stand at present with regard to fauna and flora in various European regions, synthesize the protection goals of the various countries, and assess the importance of various ecosystem services. Another important aim is to develop reliable but simple monitoring procedures to check for unintended environmental effects.
The final outcome of the project will include a network of representative sites in the EU for carrying out pre-market risk assessment and long-term monitoring studies, a set of standardised testing methods, and a geographical information system integrating relevant datasets, protocols and tools to help EU decision-makers.
The project “Assessing and Monitoring the Impacts of Genetically modified plants (GMPs) on Agro-ecosystems (AMIGA)” is partially funded by six million € from EU’s FP7 programme and involves scientists from 22 institutions in 15 EU countries and Argentina. The project is coordinated by the second largest research organisation in Italy, the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).
Read more about AMIGA here.
For more information please contact: Senior scientist Gabor Lövei, Department of Agroecology, telephone: +45 8715 8224, e-mail: Gabor.Lovei@agrsci.dk