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Bioscience Issues

An ecosystem service approach to GM farming

An ecosystem service approach to GM farming

PI: Liam Dolan and Kathy Willis

Postdoctoral researcher: Carla Romeu-Dalmau

Today we face the challenge of increasing food productivity while simultaneously addressing the impacts of modern agriculture. Genetically modified (GM) crops – which have been modified using genetic engineering to improve their fitness – are considered by many scientists key to rise to this challenge. However, the commercialization of GM crops has generated a polarised debate concerning environmental risks and the potential socio-economic impacts on farmers. A proper assessment of the impacts of GM crops requires thus an inter-disciplinary approach; an optimal assessment that is currently missing probably because is complex and requires a combination of diverse academic disciplines.

The proposed project will use state-of-the-art methods and an ecosystem services approach to construct a scientific multi-disciplinary framework to quantitatively determine the impacts of GM farming. This will be accomplish through a comparison of the relative impact of three agricultural practices (conventional, organic and GM) on key ecosystem services. The studied ecosystem services will include pest regulation, pollination, soil quality, and yield. Trade-offs between these ecosystem services will be also assessed, as well as how these trade-offs ultimately affect the economy of the farmers.

Using an ecosystem services approach, this research proposal will provide a much needed conceptual and methodological framework for a better multi-scalar understanding of the impacts of GM crops.