Bioengineered crops have mixed eco effects

9:40am, November 12, 2003

An unusually large research project in Great Britain has revealed that growing beets and canola that had been genetically modified to resist herbicides lowers the abundance of other plant species and certain insect groups that typically grow along with these crops. On the other hand, cornfields harboring genetically modified (GM) corn that resists herbicides have more weeds and insects than regular cornfields did, according to a series of reports in the Nov. 29 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B.

The mixed results are from a set of experiments covering about 60 farm fields. The 3-year trials, funded by the British government, grew out of concerns that previous studies of the ecological effects of GM crops hadn't been big enough, says test coordinator Les Firbank of the Center for Hydrology and Ecology in Merlewood, England. Half of each test field was planted with the conventional crop and half with a GM version.

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