News & Events

Background

GMO applications of the white and red biotechnology* (also called industrial and medical biotechnology) have large realised benefits and have received support from users and appear to be widely accepted by the general public. However, the situation is different for products of the so called green biotechnology. This technology is still controversial on a number of levels. The public in different European countries has expressed concerns in various forms and overarching public perception has tended to be largely negative towards GM crops.

Numerous research projects have analysed the impacts of commercialised GM plants on the environment, on animal and human health, and on the economy. Since 1982, the European Commission alone has invested over €300 million on research on the biosafety of GMOs, with many member states funding similar national programmes with considerable financial commitments. A number of reviews and reports have summarised the current state of the impact assessment of GM crops (see box on the right side).
Numerous research projects have analysed the impacts of commercialised GM plants on the environment, on animal and human health, and on the economy. Since 1982, the European Commission alone has invested over €300 million on research on the biosafety of GMOs, with many member states funding similar national programmes with considerable financial commitments. A number of reviews and reports have summarised the current state of the impact assessment of GM crops (see box on the right side).
There is a large body of scientific evidence suggesting that GM crops have no greater adverse impact on health and the environment than other crops developed with alternative technologies used in plant breeding.  That research also suggests that GM crops have  a potential for notable benefits (e.g., reduced use of pesticides, implementation of no-till agriculture which sequesters carbon and builds up exhausted soils, increased harvests, revenues and profits for farmers, reduced mycotoxin content in harvested maize).
On the other hand, some studies also indicate reasons for concern under certain circumstances and for individual products (e.g., crop failures, price increases, seed market monopolisation and farmers’ dependency on a few technology providers, negative impacts on non-target organisms, and resistance development in target pest populations).

The consideration of risks and benefits depends also on specific values, expectations and concerns of citizens and civil society organisations which so far have possibly not been sufficiently addressed. There are obviously knowledge gaps which may hamper a widely accepted evaluation of risks and benefits of existing GM products. Additionally, new GM applications are under development and could reach the European market in the foreseeable future. This also demands a timely conception of aligned research programmes that support a purposeful and adequate risk and benefit analysis. 

The ultimate goal of the project is preparing the implementation of an EU wide research network (GMO ERA-Net) that will address the issues described above through a comprehensive and aligned research agenda and transnational joint calls for interdisciplinary research.