WP5: Review of environmental impacts of GM plants

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WP5: Review of environmental impacts of GM plants

A considerable amount of international research has addressed the environmental impacts of commercialized crops on non-target biota. Most studies and literature reviews have focused on the effects of commercialized plants that produce insecticidal proteins, and herbicide-tolerant crops (e.g. Bt maize and cotton, herbicide-tolerant sugar beet and oilseed rape).

Ladybird on a maize leaf. Numerous biosafety research projects have investigated whether genetically modified Bt-maize could harm non-target organisms. The Bt proteins produced in Bt maize are intended to control two maize pests European corn borer and Western corn rootworm. (┬ęseb2401/istockphoto.com)

The statistical tools employed in the surveys vary greatly and include quantitative approaches (e.g. meta-analyses, aggregate scoring) as well as non-quantitative methods (“vote counts”, weight of evidence or qualitative “narrative” reviews ).

Not all of these approaches have produced relevant data for risk managers and regulatory authorities. This is partly because review procedures were not always transparent and the selection criteria for including and excluding studies were not always clearly stated. This can significantly weaken results, as it may lead to the exclusion of valuable non-peer-reviewed reports and published data sets.

GRACE (WP5) will improve and extend the reviewed set of data on the environmental impacts of crops and traits relevant for Europe and

  • include unpublished research data sets from research programmes in Europe to assess their quality and content;
  • conduct comprehensive reviews of studies that have identified beneficial or adverse environmental effects of GM plants that are being cultivated or have been submitted for cultivation in the EU (Bt maize and other GM plants expressing Bt toxins, herbicide-tolerant (HT) maize, soya, sugar beet and oilseed rape, and starch-modified GM potatoes);
  • relate risks of certain GM crops to their socio-economic benefits to determine the net risk/benefit of GM crops in different environments and farming situations in Europe;
  • indicate areas of uncertainty and areas where management measures are needed to minimize environmental impacts.

Studies and data sets will be categorized according to the quality criteria in the Good Review Practice established in WP8 before they are subjected to meta-analyses.

The scoping, question formulation, literature selection criteria and quality criteria employed in the analyses will be disclosed in review protocols that will be made available in the project database (WP6). The project database will also contain detailed maps of all the data sets used and their quality ranking by the review teams.

Based on this state-of-the-art evaluation of the environmental biosafety research on GM crops, the expert teams will assess the effectiveness of risk assessment studies in the EU and draft recommendations for future research needs, improvements and political implementations.

All results will be published in a final report via the GRACE website.

GRACE Database

Improving the availability of scientific information on GM plants


The database CADIMA (Central Access Database for Impact Assessment of Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies) contains quality assessed studies and conclusions on the health effects, socio-economic consequences and environmental impacts of GM plants as well as raw data of animal feeding studies and alternative in vitro approaches.

It is currently under development and covers the EU projects GRACE, G-TwYST and PreSto GMO ERA-Net.


CADIMA database

Stakeholder consultation

Stakeholder consultation on animal feeding studies and in vitro studies for assessment of GMO impacts on human health.


3-4 December 2012, Vienna


More information …