Genetically Modified (GM) crops and biodiversity

There are increasing demands on biodiversity data to help determine and predict the effect of changes in agriculture.  The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) has recently completed work to provide advice on the Post Market Environmental Monitoring (PMEM) of genetically modified (GM) crops. This included examining whether existing environmental surveillance networks could be used for detect unanticipated adverse effects on biodiversity once a GM crop is authorised and becomes grown commercially.  JNCC, together with its surveillance partners the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the British Trust for Ornithology, provided advice on the application of the Countryside Survey, Breeding Birds Survey and the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Novel statistical work has determined how information on where new crops are growing can be used to subset data from these surveys, and determine whether there would be sufficient power to show if bird, plant or butterfly populations that use cropped and would respond differently in different areas. The statistical work provides general models that will enable data from these schemes to be used for many other comparisons within the agricultural landscape.

This report considers how capable our current biodiversity surveillance systems are at identifying small unexpected changes if genetically modified crops were to be commercially grown.  This has much wider application, as it will allow us to investigate relationships with a range of possible influencing factors, such as the possible impacts from using crops for biofuel production or management changes intended to increase productivity.