Relevance of genetically modified crops in light of future environmental and legislative challenges to the agri-environment

O'Brien, M. and Mullins, E. (2009) Relevance of genetically modified crops in light of future environmental and legislative challenges to the agri-environment. Annals of Applied Biology , 154 (3). 323-340 .

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A key challenge for countries like Ireland up to 2030 is to produce sufficient supplies of food, feed and fuel, without compromising on public health or negatively impacting the environment. As we progress through the technology era, certain agricultural technologies [e.g. genetically modified (GM) crops] have been championed to maximise production while minimising environmental impact. Yet, multiple arguments have been made to counter such a claim, which has led to a polarisation of opinions and a plethora of generic commentaries being made in regard to the impact of this technology. Yet, few studies within the European Union (EU) have conducted a critical needs analysis to assess the potential of specific GM traits in light of issues, such as climate change, increased environmental legislation (e.g. EU Water Framework, Nitrates Directive, proposed reform to the Pesticide Directive and Common Agricultural Policy reform), mitigating biodiversity loss and sustainable biofuel production. The goal of this study is to collate a register of GM traits such that a list of potential GM crops could be prioritised against the backdrop of the challenges facing the tillage sector. Clearly, the crops with the most significant potential for genetic modification are those that are grown widely and/or receive high applications of pesticides and fertilisers (e.g. potato, wheat, barley and maize). GM traits with significant agronomic potential include late blight resistant potato, Fusarium head blight resistant wheat and Septoria resistant wheat and herbicide-tolerant winter oilseed rape and maize. Following on from these, crops with enhanced nitrogen-use efficiency could provide significant input to the tillage sector in light of EU-based restrictions on nitrogen usage, crops with elevated protein content could offset the costs of imported animal feed and crops with modified oil content/lignocellulose composition could assist in biodiesel/bioenergy production at a regional level. This study is relevant to other European countries that cultivate similar crops and like Ireland, are facing multiple challenges to their tillage sector in the near future

Item Type: Article
Author Affiliation: Plant Biotechnology Unit, Teagasc Crops Research Centre, Oak Park, Carlow, Irish Republic
Subjects: Plant Protection > Pesticides
Crop Improvement > Genetics/Genomics
Crop Improvement > Plant Breeding
Divisions: Other Crops
Depositing User: Syamala
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2011 03:03
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2011 03:03
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