GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Stakeholder input wanted: survey on research needs for assessing GMO impacts 

Shaping the Future of GMO Research

Stakeholder with interests in the risk and/or benefit assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are invited to take part in an online survey.

The aim of this survey is to identify which research needs should be prioritised, thereby contributing to the commissioning of research on the health, environment and economic impacts of GMOs.

The survey will close on 15th July 2015.

More information and access to the online survey

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The European Commission and other EU agencies are not responsible for the content.
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What is sustainable farming?

The concept of sustainability rests on a simple principle: everything we need for our survival and well-being depends on our natural environment. In order to continue to have water and the resources to protect human health and our environment, we must meet our present needs without compromising the needs of future generations.

Sustainable agriculture addresses many environmental and social concerns. The major challenge of environmentally sustainable farming is to protect biodiversity, water and soil quality, despite rapid population growth and the increasing need for food. In a socio-economic context, sustainability aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to maintain human health. This means that the development of sustainable agriculture also offers innovative and economically viable opportunities for growers, consumers, policymakers and many others throughout the food system.

Genetically modified plants have been grown commercially for over 15 years and their possible impacts on the environment and human health are often under debate. Current studies have also begun to address their possible contributions to the various dimensions of sustainable farming.


Making farming more efficient

Scientists forecast that the current demand for crop production will have doubled by the year 2050, meaning that more food needs to be grown on less land and with less water. Most strategies therefore aim to make crop production more efficient. This may be of particular importance in developing countries, where the current trend is to clear more land instead of intensifying crop yields. Land clearance is considered to be one of the major causes of biodiversity decline and greenhouse gas emissions.

Certain genetically modified crops may pave the way for more efficient agricultural practices that make better use of existing farmland. The cultivation of herbicide-resistant soybeans, Bt maize and Bt cotton, for instance, has led to yield improvements of 10 – 30% in some regions of the United States and Asia compared to conventional crop varieties. Farmers have also benefited from pesticide savings of between 30% and 70% for Bt maize and Bt cotton that have further reduced their crop management costs.

Impact of GM crops on soil quality and greenhouse gas emissions

Intense farming practices, such as tillage and land clearance, are responsible for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and increase the risk of soil erosion. Several Bt- and herbicide-resistant crops can be grown with a minimum of tillage or using the no-till system. Without tillage, the soil is better protected against soil erosion, and the storage of organic matter helps to retain soil moisture. In some regions of the United States, no-till cultivation of GM soybeans is thought to have reduced erosion by 90%. No tillage also means that less machinery and fuel is required to cultivate the fields, which reduces harmful traffic on wet soil and cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact of GM crops on water quality

Water is the principle resource for human agriculture and the major limiting factor when mismanaged. The most important issues relating to water quality are salinization and contamination of ground and surface waters by pesticides and fertilizers. Insect-resistant Bt crops that produce a natural toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria have significantly reduced the use of pesticides since their commercialization in the nineties. The no-till system used to manage pest-resistant GM crops has further reduced the risks of water surface run-off from the topsoil.

Water shortage and drought are currently the main factors behind decreasing crop yields, and more and more plant biologists are focusing on developing stress-resistant plant species. Novel genetically engineered crops with increased resistance to heat, drought or salt may save marginal farmlands that would otherwise be lost through desertification.


    An EU Research Project

    What are the risks of growing GM crops?

    What are the benefits?

    Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

    Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

    More information


    GMO Soybeans & Sustainability

    Less soil erosion and fuel consumption: herbicide tolerant soybeans are promoting sustainable cultivation methods.


    Glyphosate in European agriculture

    Interview with a farmer

    Glyphosate containing herbicides are not only used in fields with GM crops. They also allow conventional farmers to sow directly into stubble fields without ploughing. Glyphosate has replaced mechanical weed control in many crops and has had an important impact on agricultural practices and crop yields in Europe over the past few decades.

    European Glyphosate Task Force

     GM Crops: Specific Information and Future Projects
    July 18, 2012 [nach oben springen]

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