GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
  Oct 25, 2014 | 3:23 pm
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Crops

Sugarbeet


Commercial planting of a genetically modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet began in the USA in 2008. This is expected to make weed management simpler and more effective. This sugar beet is approved for import into the EU, as well as for food and feed processing; however, it is not yet authorised for cultivation. 

After the seeds are sown, sugar beets grow very slowly. Wild grasses and weeds are usually much faster and compete for light, water and nutrients. Without massive weed control, young sugar beet plants hardly are able to establish themselves. Compared with other crops, they require the most intensive and frequent use of weed control products.

Bild vergrößern

Herbicide-tolerant H7-1 sugar beet field trial in Idaho, USA
Photo: Betaseed

Bild vergrößern
Occupied trial field in Germany. In April 2008 some opponents of genetic engineering occupied a trial field belonging to KWS Saat AG. Trials on H7-1 sugar beets were planned for there.
Photo: gendreck-weg

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Sowing. Protected by a human chain of KWS staff, the trial field was tilled and sowing was prepared.
Photo: KWS Saat AG

Normally, only three applications of herbicides are necessary, which, as a rule, contain four to seven different active ingredients. Without weed management, sugar beet yield would be reduced by 75 per cent.

Herbicides, machine use and equipment are big cost factors for farmers. The cultivation of sugar beets in some European countries is undergoing increasing economic pressure. Following the end of EU sugar sector regulations, the produce of beet farmers now must compete with cheap sugar cane on the world market. An alternative weed management programme with fewer sprayings would be economically interesting – and also be more beneficial to the environment.

That was the goal of KWS Saat AG, the German seed company that developed the genetically modified H7-1 sugar beet. The company used a concept from Monsanto in the USA that had already been used with soybeans, among other crops. As a result of a novel gene, the sugar beet is resistant to the active ingredient glyphosate, marketed under the name Roundup as a universal herbicide. It works by blocking the production of certain amino acids in all green plants. The plants stop growing and die. The effect of glyphosate is neutralised in GM plants that are resistant.

Glyphosate has been used as an herbicide for a long time and in some European regions since 1975. Compared with other herbicides it has a favourable ecotoxicological profile. After just 30 to 40 days, it is completely broken down in the soil and there are little side effects to birds, fish and other organisms in soil or water.

Using glyphosate for weed control is most advantgeous to farmers. Conventional herbicides must contain many herbicidal ingredients, in order to manage all the different types of weeds. Now only one ingredient is necessary. The farmers can also be more flexible with their time and can better schedule their manpower and machines. It is expected that it will be easier in future to apply the damage threshold model, that is, to spray only when the weed population so warrants.

Field trials in the USA: expectations met

The combination of an herbicide-tolerant sugar beet with a compatible herbicide does not mean that just one spraying now will be necessary for weed control. However, experiences in the USA have shown that when this herbicide-tolerant system is employed in sugar beet cultivation, fewer sprayings are necessary – and also that less fuel is needed.

After cultivation of the H7-1 sugar beet was authorised in the USA in 2005, the state of Idaho began a field trial on a 1,000-hectare plot. An accompanying study showed that the cost savings per hectare was 100 dollars. It was also shown that more mulch seeding and less tillage could be applied. Up to now such non-ploughing, soil-preserving production practices were hardly possible in the cultivation of sugar beet because weed control was particularly difficult. Commercial cultivation of the GM sugar beet began in the USA in 2008. According to KWS, 250,000 hectares of H7-1 sugar beets were cultivated in the first year, half the total sugar beet area in the USA. In 2009, it is expected that cultivation of GM sugar beets will rise to cover 90 per cent of the total area.

EU: field tests planned in Germany and Spain

In the EU, applications for the cultivation of H7-1 sugar beets were submitted years ago, but a decision is still far off. However, imports of sugar derived entirely or partially from these GM sugar beets are allowed in the EU, as is sugar beet pulp intended for use as feed.

Commercial cultivation in the EU is not expected before 2015. First, field tests will be carried out to determine if the concept of GM sugar beet with a compatible herbicide can actually contribute to a more environmentally-friendly, resource-saving sugar beet production. It must also be seen if farmers can sink their costs and thereby improve their ability to compete on the world sugar market.

Systematic field trials will be carried out at several locations in Germany and Spain.

 

 


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

Crops and Cereals
Gm Plants: Cultivation and Futur Projects
Soybeans
Maize
Rape Seed
Cotton
Sugar beet
Wheat
Potato
Rice
More Info
USA: Sugar beet cultivation
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/td><td class=Betaseed, Inc. USA
December 22, 2008 [nach oben springen]

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