Fighting GM crop vandalism with a government-protected research site

February 28, 2013

Genetically modified (GM) crops have been a source of great controversy--particularly in Europe--but acts of vandalism and associated security costs have made scientific evidence about the health and ecological impacts of those crops hard to come by. A Swiss government-protected field site dedicated for use in GM crop studies could serve as an example to other European countries interested in pursuing crop biotechnology, according to an article published in Trends in Biotechnology, a Cell Press publication, on February 28.

The protected field site will now enable research groups to conduct experiments without having to install and pay for security measures. The research station is expected to operate with an annual budget of €600,000.

"This could be a model for other European countries that wish to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of GM crops in an objective and scientific manner with less risk of vandalism," said Jörg Romeis of Zurich's Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station.

As of 2010, opponents of genetic modification had destroyed more than 100 field trials in Europe. At the Reckenholz site, a group of more than 30 masked activists threatened researchers and destroyed about 30 percent of the experimental plants in a 2008 field trial.

The new protected field site will provide GM crop researchers with all the technical security measures needed to guard against such attacks, including perimeter fencing, round-the-clock guarding and surveillance of the experimental field, and an alarm system.

Romeis and his colleagues say that vandalism and its associated costs appear to be a major factor in the steady decline of European GM research, a situation that they call unacceptable.

In many parts of the world, GM crops are gaining popularity. In 2011, as much as 10 percent of the world's arable crop area was planted with GM crops. However, the adoption of GM plants has been very low in Europe, with only two GM crops approved for cultivation: Bt maize and a starch-modified potato. No GM crop is approved for commercial release in Switzerland, where there is a voter-approved moratorium in place through 2017. However, scientific research, including field experiments with GM plants, is permitted.

Romeis says that the establishment of such protected sites could eventually reverse the decline in GM field trials and strengthen plant biotechnology research in Europe.
-end-
Trends in Biotechnology, Romeis et al. "Plant biotechnology: research behind fences"

Cell Press

Related Biotechnology Articles from Brightsurf:

Cyanobacteria as "green" catalysts in biotechnology
Researchers from TU Graz and Ruhr University Bochum show in the journal ACS Catalysis how the catalytic activity of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can be significantly increased.

Biotechnology to the rescue of Brussels sprouts
An international team has identified the genes that make these plants resistant to the pathogen that attacks crops belonging to the cabbage family all over the world.

UM professor co-authors report on the use of biotechnology in forests
University of Montana Professor Diana Six is one of 12 authors of a new report that addresses the potential for biotechnology to provide solutions for protecting forest trees from insect and pathogen outbreaks, which are increasing because of climate change and expanded global trade.

Faster genome evolution methods to transform yeast for industrial biotechnology
A research team led by Prof. DAI Junbiao at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with Prof.

New innovations in cell-free biotechnology
Professor Michael Jewett's new platform to conduct cell-free protein synthesis could lead to improved quality of manufactured protein therapeutics and biomaterials.

Silk 'micrococoons' could be used in biotechnology and medicine
Microscopic versions of the cocoons spun by silkworms have been manufactured by a team of researchers.

The end of biotechnology as we know it
More than 400 attendees from five continents discussed trends and improvements in biotechnology at the European Summit of Industrial Biotechnology (ESIB) in Graz/Austria and talked many topics like a dehumanized research process.

Biotechnology: A growing field in the developing world
A detailed new report surveys a broad cross-section of biotechnology work across developing countries, revealing steady growth in fields tied to human well-being worldwide.

China releases first report on biotechnology in developing countries
The first report on biotechnology in developing countries revealing an overall picture of their biotechnology growth and competitiveness was released on Nov.

Exclusive: Biotechnology leaders surveyed about impact of Trump presidency
The day following the election of Donald J. Trump as President, a survey of leaders in biotechnology in the United States, conducted by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News showed that Trump's presidency will negatively impact NIH research funding as well as STEM education; a plurality said it will also spark a 'brain drain' as foreign-born researchers educated in American universities will be more likely to leave.

Read More: Biotechnology News and Biotechnology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.