GM cereals and oilseeds have potential benefits to agriculture in the United Kingdom

Publish time: 20th March, 2015      Source: United Kingdom
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GM cereals and oilseeds have potential benefits to agriculture in the United KingdomGM cereals and oilseeds have potential benefits to agriculture in the United Kingdom" title="Share this link on Facebook">United KingdomMarch 20, 2015The adoption of genetically-modified (GM) cereals and oilseeds crops could benefit farmers, consumers and the animal feed supply chain, while supporting UK competitiveness in the global marketplace, according to an independent report published today (11 March).The work was commissioned by HGCA, the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), to address key research questions around domestic adoption or non-adoption of GM technologies.The report also finds that GM crop production carries no negative environmental impacts compared to conventional cropping – and may offer environmental advantages.‘An evidence-based review on the likely economic and environmental impact of genetically modified (GM) cereals and oilseeds for UK agriculture’ examines the best available evidence on overseas experience of GM adoption, pulling together data from more than 170 publications, reports and studies to explore possible scenarios for the UK.HGCA’s Dr Vicky Foster said: “This report is a gathering of evidence to inform future debate on the potential use of GM cereals and oilseeds in the UK.“We felt it was important to develop an independent evidence-base, free from distortion and speculation, to better prepare the industry for the implications of GM crop production, should the technology become available in the UK.“We recognise that GM is an emotive subject but this report is specifically focused on the science, rather than consumer acceptability of GM products.“However, we live in a market economy and farmers and processors are reliant on consumer demand for their products. Although this study demonstrates there would be tangible benefits to farmers and the environment in certain GM crop production scenarios, ultimately the decision rests in the hands of the consumer.”On-farm economic impactsResearchers at the University of Reading used a dynamic economic model to predict the impact on UK farm gross margins of growing Insecticide Resistant (IR) maize and Herbicide Tolerant (HT) oilseed rape (OSR).It found that only under continued pest and weed pressures was there an economic benefit to GM crops over conventional crops, as the technology premium for GM seed and the cost of co-existence measures depressed gross margins in the absence of these pressures.However, in very severe pest and weed pressure situations, gross margins could increase by up to 15.2% for continuous Insecticide Resistant (IR) maize, 16.6% for continuous Herbicide Tolerant (HT) OSR and 10.2% for HT OSR in a four crop rotation.Other benefits included a cleaner crop (following a GM crop), better soil condition and reduced weed burden returned to the land.Environmental impactsAnalysis of environmental impacts was based on evidence from countries where GM crops are already being produced.It found that HT and IR traits reduced the amount of active ingredients applied in crop production, though for HT the risk of herbicide resistant weeds developing should not be ignored and may diminish this benefit if not managed appropriately. The use of IR crops as a pest management tool may reduce losses to insecticides of non-target organisms, including beneficials.Reduction in the frequency of farm machinery usage would result in less soil erosion, increased soil moisture retention, and reduced fuel use and GHG emissions.In addition, data from Spain and Portugal show co-existence measures have been effective in preventing gene flow issues.Impacts on the UK feed supply chainThe UK feed supply chain is already using GM products in the manufacture of livestock feed. While implementation of the infrastructure to support a segregated feed supply chain would result initially in increased costs, stakeholder consultation conducted as part of the review indicates there would be no long term or structural implications.To access the report, visit our genetics research page.An evidence-based review on the likely economic and environmental impact of genetically modifed cereals and oilseeds for UK agricultureVideo interview with Dr Vicky Foster and Dr Susannah Bolton – GM: The science behind the headlines videoVideo from Agronomists Conference 2013 - GM in the UK: Is there a future?Genetic Modification of Crops and Crop Protection Agents: the AHDB PositionResearch Review No. 82An evidence-based review on the likely economic and environmental impact of genetically modified cereals and oilseeds for UK agriculturebyF J Areal, J M Dunwell, P J Jones, J R Park, I D McFarlane,C S Srinivasan and R B TranterSchool of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of ReadingAbstractAn evidence-based review of the potential impact that the introduction of genetically-modified (GM) cereal and oilseed crops could have for the UK was carried out. The inter-disciplinary research project addressed the key research questions using scenarios for the uptake, or not, of GM technologies. This was followed by an extensive literature review, stakeholder consultation and financial modelling.The world area of canola, oilseed rape (OSR) low in both erucic acid in the oil and glucosinolates in the meal, was 34M ha in 2012 of which 27% was GM; Canada is the lead producer but it is also grown in the USA, Australia and Chile. Farm level effects of adopting GM OSR include: lower production costs; higher yields and profits; and ease of farm management. Growing GM OSR instead of conventional OSR reduces both herbicide usage and environmental impact.Some 170M ha of maize was grown in the world in 2011 of which 28% was GM; the main producers are the USA, China and Brazil. Spain is the main EU producer of GM maize although it is also grown widely in Portugal. Insect resistant (IR) and herbicide tolerant (HT) are the GM maize traits currently available commercially. Farm level benefits of adopting GM maize are lower costs of production through reduced use of pesticides and higher profits. GM maize adoption results in less pesticide usage than on conventional counterpart crops leading to less residues in food and animal feed and allowing increasing diversity of bees and other pollinators. In the EU, well-tried coexistence measures for growing GM crops in the proximity of conventional crops have avoided gene flow issues.Scientific evidence so far seems to indicate that there has been no environmental damage from growing GM crops. They may possibly even be beneficial to the environment as they result in less pesticides and herbicides being applied and improved carbon sequestration from less tillage.A review of work on GM cereals relevant for the UK found input trait work on: herbicide and pathogen tolerance; abiotic stress such as from drought or salinity; and yield traits under different field conditions. For output traits, work has mainly focussed on modifying the nutritional components of cereals and in connection with various enzymes, diagnostics and vaccines.Scrutiny of applications submitted for field trial testing of GM cereals found around 9000 applications in the USA, 15 in Australia and 10 in the EU since 1996. There have also been many patent applications and granted patents for GM cereals in the USA for both input and output traits; an indication of the scale of such work is the fact that in a 6 week period in the spring of 2013, 12 patents were granted relating to GM cereals.A dynamic financial model has enabled us to better understand and examine the likely performance of Bt maize and HT OSR for the south of the UK, if cultivation is permitted in the future. It was found that for continuous growing of Bt maize and HT OSR, unless there was pest pressure for the former and weed pressure for the latter, the seed premia and likely coexistence costs for a buffer zone between other crops would reduce the financial returns for the GM crops compared with their conventional counterparts. When modelling HT OSR in a four crop rotation, it was found that gross margins increased significantly at the higher levels of such pest or weed pressure, particularly for farm businesses with larger fields where coexistence costs would be scaled down.The impact of the supply of UK-produced GM crops on the wider supply chain was examined through an extensive literature review and widespread stakeholder consultation with the feed supply chain.The animal feed sector would benefit from cheaper supplies of raw materials if GM crops were grown and, in the future, they might also benefit from crops with enhanced nutritional profile (such as having higher protein levels) becoming available. This would also be beneficial to livestock producers enabling lower production costs and higher margins. Whilst coexistence measures would result in increased costs, it is unlikely that these would cause substantial changes in the feed chain structure. Retailers were not concerned about a future increase in the amount of animal feed coming from GM crops.To conclude, we (the project team) feel that the adoption of currently available and appropriate GM crops in the UK in the years ahead would benefit farmers, consumers and the feed chain without causing environmental damage. Furthermore, unless British farmers are allowed to grow GM crops in the future, the competitiveness of farming in the UK is likely to decline relative to that globally.More news from: HGCA (Home-Grown Cereals Authority)Website: http://www.hgca.comPublished: March 20, 2015The news item on this page is copyright by the organization where it originatedFair use notice