University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Genetically Modified Crops

Are GM crops safe for the environment?
GM crops and biodiversity.

GM opponents fear that the wide scale adoption of GM crops may lead to a reduction in biodiversity. Herbicide and pesticide tolerant GM crops would allow for more effective pest and weed control, thus leaving fewer insects and plants behind as food for other wildlife.

GM supporters reply that this all farming is a reduction in biodiversity – that’s what farming is: growing crops, not wild plants, and protecting them from pests and diseases. Thus, compared to unrestrained nature, herbicide and pesticide tolerant GM crops do lead to reduced biodiversity. But they pose no additional risk to that already posed by conventional farming.

Beginning in 1999, a study was set up to find some answers to this issue. Results from the “Farm Scale Evaluations (FSE) of Genetically Modified Herbicide-Tolerant Crops” were published in March 2005.

The results were wildly publicised in the media, but with different emphasis placed the various parts of the story.

Activity: Has the science been fairly reported?

Look at these different media reports of the Farm Scale Evaluations.

Now compare these to an overview of the same trials written by one of the research scientists involved.

Question: Have the media articles fairly and accurately reported what the study showed?

  • Look at the language used. Does it put a "spin" on the story?
  • Look at which parts of the research are mentioned and which are not.
  • Notice that the original study examined four crops. Which are reported in the news articles and how does that affect the impression that each article gives?
  • At the end of each article, are you left with the impression that the key point is the GM crop or how the herbicides are used?

 Conflicts of interest?


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