Innogen · News · March 1, 2010

Benefits and Risks of Genetically Modified Crops

Prof Joyce Tait joins leading international experts on GM crop risk assessment for a CABI workshop held in Egham in January 2010.

The workshop was the first of two high level meetings planned as part of a new project initiated by The British Embassy and CABI together with Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

While GM crops may help meet the demands of agricultural output, there is a need for comprehensive, transparent natural and social science methodologies to enable sustainable and evidence-based risk and benefit analysis.

Experts on GM environmental risk assessment research from Chinese centres of excellence under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and their counterparts in the UK attended the workshop to discuss the potential environmental consequences caused by commercialization of GM crops (e.g. maize). Issues include:

  • gene flow (transgene escape & its ecological consequences);

  • effects on non-target organisms, including indirect toxicity and long-term effects;

  • changes of biodiversity (especially arthropod) in agro-ecosystem;

  • build up of insect resistance;

  • increases in other pests (e.g. insects, weeds etc);

  • impacts (including social-economic aspects) on sustainable farming practices.

The project was initiated following the visit of Prof. John Beddington, UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor, to China in March 2009, and in response to the UK-China Food Security Action Plan.

It is hoped that the collaboration will provide significant added value to the UK and Chinese scientific community and enable sound policy-making based on understanding of the risks and benefits of GM crop research.