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Plant J. 2003 Jan;33(1):19-46.

The release of genetically modified crops into the environment. Part II. Overview of ecological risk assessment.

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New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research Ltd, Private Bag 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Despite numerous future promises, there is a multitude of concerns about the impact of GM crops on the environment. Key issues in the environmental assessment of GM crops are putative invasiveness, vertical or horizontal gene flow, other ecological impacts, effects on biodiversity and the impact of presence of GM material in other products. These are all highly interdisciplinary and complex issues. A crucial component for a proper assessment is defining the appropriate baseline for comparison and decision. For GM crops, the best and most appropriately defined reference point is the impact of plants developed by traditional breeding. The latter is an integral and accepted part of agriculture. In many instances, the putative impacts identified for GM crops are very similar to the impacts of new cultivars derived from traditional breeding. When assessing GM crops relative to existing cultivars, the increased knowledge base underpinning the development of GM crops will provide greater confidence in the assurances plant science can give on the risks of releasing such crops.

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