Review Article | Published:

Potential for the environmental impact of transgenic crops

Nature Biotechnology volume 20, pages 567574 (2002) | Download Citation

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  • An Erratum to this article was published on 01 August 2002

Abstract

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in how changes in agricultural practice associated with the introduction of particular genetically modified (GM) crops might indirectly impact the environment. There is also interest in any effects that might be associated with recombinant and novel combinations of DNA passing into the environment, and the possibility that they may be taken up by microorganisms or other live biological material. From the current state of knowledge, the impact of free DNA of transgenic origin is likely to be negligible compared with the large amount of total free DNA. We can find no compelling scientific arguments to demonstrate that GM crops are innately different from non-GM crops. The kinds of potential impacts of GM crops fall into classes familiar from the cultivation of non-GM crops (e.g., invasiveness, weediness, toxicity, or biodiversity). It is likely, however, that the novelty of some of the products of GM crop improvement will present new challenges and perhaps opportunities to manage particular crops in creative ways.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council for their support. The majority of the literature discussed in this review was collected and presented as part of a project supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA; Contract Number OF0193) in a project entitled: “Review of knowledge of the potential impacts of GMOs on organic agriculture.” We are greatly indebted to DEFRA for their support and to Bruce Pearce, James Welsh, and Martin Wolfe of the Initiative on Organic Research, Elm Farm Research Centre, United Kingdom, for their valuable collaboration and discussions. We thank Ruth Peart for help with the literature search and Helen Ghirardello for preparation of the manuscript.

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  1. John Innes Centre, Colney Lane, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK.

    • Philip J. Dale
  2. Norwich Research Park Science, PO Box 715, Norwich NR4 7SY, UK.

    • Belinda Clarke
  3. Embrapa-Cenargen, PqEB-Final Av. W3 Norte, Brasilia, DF70770-900, Brazil.

    • Eliana M.G. Fontes

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Correspondence to Philip J. Dale.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0602-567

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