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New research finds GM herbicide-tolerant crops may lead to longer term effects on weed seedbanks 28th September 2005


A new study, published today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters considers the longer term effects of planting genetically modified herbicide tolerant (GMHT) crops on biodiversity.

Arable weed seedlingsThe research, led by scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, looked at weed seedbanks - the number and diversity of weed seeds left in the soil, which will be food for insects and birds - in the fields used in the farm-scale evaluations trails of GM crops (FSEs). After the FSE trial ended the land returned to normal management. The study looked at the weed seedbanks for a following two years of conventional crops

The results show that for maize and spring oilseed rape, the effects on seed numbers persist throughout that time. This was not the case for seedbanks following beet crops. The research suggests that there may be long term effects of GMHT crops on biodiversity.

Commenting on the report Dr Les Firbank, co-ordinator of the FSEs who is based at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology research site in Lancaster, said "The new study confirms our impression of what would happen when we released the initial results from the FSE project in 2003."


Additional Information

  • Firbank et al. "Effects of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant cropping systems on weed seedbanks in two years of following crops. Published in Biology Letters 28th September 2005
  • DEFRA website - Farm scale evaluations
  • Centre for Ecology & Hydrology research on the farm scale evaluations
  • BBC Online news story