News

India: Expert panel recommends 10-year moratorium on GMOs

Requirements for field trials to be tightened. Industry fears negative consequences. (Oct 22, 2012) more…

New study of GM maize is controversial in scientific circles

Genetically modified NK603 maize said to cause severe health problems in rats. Scientists criticise the study, politicians call for suspension of NK603 authorisation. (Sep 21, 2012) more…

No health or environmental risks from plant biotechnology

Swiss national research programme NRP 59 publishes final report. Includes a large number of biosafety projects. (Aug 28, 2012) more…

“There are no magical plants”

Severe drought in the US: UN warns of new food crisis. New drought-tolerant maize varieties put to the test (Aug 14, 2012) more…

AMIGA: Coordinating European research on GM plants and their impacts

New EU project: Standardising environmental risk assessments while making allowances for the diversity of Europe’s agro-ecosystems (Jun 12, 2012) more…

GM wheat debate in the UK

Destruction of a GM wheat trail: Scientists seek publicity, police prevent destruction of trial plot (May 30, 2012) more…

MON810 GM maize: EFSA still says it is safe

France’s grounds for an EU cultivation ban contain no convincing evidence of environmental risks. (May 25, 2012) more…

Plant research in Europe: Few new GM plants

Number of release trials with GM plants continues to fall – Only a few R&D projects among the new applications. (May 18, 2012) more…

Plans to make feeding studies mandatory

New draft regulation from the European Commission for the authorisation of GM plants goes too far for scientists, but not far enough for critics. (Apr 4, 2012) more…

Crop rotation, insecticides and genetic engineering: Scientists call for integrated pest control

Open letter from 22 US scientists to the EPA: Western corn rootworms are becoming resistant to Bt protein; integrated pest control is necessary. (Mar 16, 2012) more…

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The editorial team of GMO Safety

Research Results

“We did not find any evidence of direct toxic effects on honeybees, but there is a need for further research.”

Does genetically modified Bt maize pose a risk to honeybees? Stephan Härtel and his team at the University of Würzburg investigated this possibility in a three-year research project. They placed bee colonies in flight tents and studied the development of nurse bees. They fed bee larvae in the laboratory and placed observation hives in a number of different agricultural landscapes. In connection with the global bee death phenomenon, they investigated the interaction of various stress factors. They did not find that Bt maize affected the bees’ health in any of these experiments.more

Focus

Root nodules Vicia  sepium

Less fertilizer, higher yields

Plants take up nitrogen, a key component of many biological molecules, from the soil. For efficient crop cultivation, nitrogen has to be added to the soil at regular intervals. The large-scale use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers has led to considerable yield increases for farmers, but has also damaged the environment. Plant researchers are working on ways of improving the take-up and utilisation of nitrogen by crop plants. The most ambitious aim is to develop staple crops that can use nitrogen from the atmosphere.more

Research Results

“The idea was to obtain more from the same land while using sustainable farming methods”

GM potatoes that produce cyanophycin, the raw material for a biodegradable plastic, in their tubers rot faster than conventional potatoes. The fear that they could survive for longer on the field has therefore not been confirmed. This is one of the findings of a biosafety research project that looked at potential environmental impacts of the cyanophycin potato. more

Research Results

Plant varieties, weather and farming methods affect the maize ecosystem

For three summers in a row, Eva Schultheis and her team at RWTH Aachen University caught countless insects on the maize trial field and then identified the species in the laboratory. They wanted to find out whether the insect communities found in genetically modified Bt maize are different from those found in conventional maize. They found differences between the years and between individual maize varieties, but were unable to detect any influence of the genetic modification. Extensive investigations in the laboratory with the rice leaf bug, which was chosen as a representative species, also failed to find any negative Bt maize effects. GMO Safety spoke to Eva Schultheis about her research work. more

Focus

Ladybird

Species diversity on farmland

Does the cultivation of GM plants affect biodiversity? This is a topic that has been discussed many times over the years. It is a fact that global biodiversity is shrinking and agriculture is one of the main causes. Monoculture and the use of pesticides and herbicides destroy large numbers of natural habitats, which reduces species diversity on agricultural land. Critics of plant biotechnology fear that this development will be exacerbated by the cultivation of GM crops. Numerous scientific studies have investigated how the cultivation of GM crops actually affects species diversity in fields. more

Focus

Citrus greening

Fruit and vegetables: Forgotten plant diseases

Until now, genetic engineering methods have been used almost exclusively on crops for which there is an international market. Many pathogens that affect regional crops could be controlled by using genetic engineering methods to develop resistant varieties. However, this is not commercially attractive for big companies. Although there are numerous public research projects in this area, there are hardly any market authorisations on the horizon. One reason for this is the high cost of the approval process.more

Focus

Ploughing, chemicals or Bt maize?

The European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) is a serious problem for maize farming in Germany. Maize is now grown on 2.5 million hectares and is still on the increase. A severe corn borer infestation can lead to harvest losses of up to 50 per cent. It is difficult to combat the pest using crop rotation or chemical and biological methods, and the corn borer continues to spread to other parts of Germany every year. The losses it causes each year are now valued at between 11 and 12 million euros. What alternative control methods can be used to halt the corn borer and how environmentally friendly are they? GMO Safety spoke to Bernd Hommel from the Julius Kühn Institute in Kleinmachnow. more

Focus

Golden Rice

Biofortification: Plants instead of pills

Millions of cases of illness and death, especially in developing countries, are caused by a lack of micronutrients like vitamins and trace elements. For this reason, nutritional supplements and industrially fortified foods are distributed in many developing and emerging nations. Now scientists are working on ways of fortifying the most important food crops with e.g. provitamin A, zinc and iron. Some of the methods used involve genetic engineering. more

Research Results

Butterflies like the peacock butterfly can come into contact with Bt maize if the pollen lands on their food plants.

“The pollen quantities that led to higher mortality rates in caterpillars in the laboratory were not detected in the field.”

Can butterflies be harmed by genetically modified Bt maize? This was the question that Mechthild Schuppener from RWTH Aachen University investigated in a three-year research project. She conducted a feeding study in the laboratory to find out how sensitive caterpillars are to Bt maize pollen. In the field, the scientist investigated how much maize pollen lands on butterflies’ food plants under natural conditions and examined where butterfly nests are to be found in farming areas. GMO Safety spoke to Mechthild Schuppener about the findings of her research project. more