Genetically Modified Organisms

We seek to ensure that debates about Genetically Modified Organisms take into account the latest ecological evidence

British Ecological Society image of plant test

Genetically modified insects

In 2015 The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee held an inquiry on GM insects, looking to explore, among other things, the potential benefits to public health and agriculture and the regulatory and public engagement implications. The Lords’ published their report in December 2015, and the Government response was published in March 2016.

Most of our understanding of the ecological impacts of GM insects is based on theoretical modelling and lab experiments, with very few field trials. However, for any release of GM insects, the ecological impacts will be dependent on a number of factors, including the type of genetic modification, the reproductive behaviour of the insect and the ‘receiving environment’. Any releases should therefore be assessed on a case by case basis.

We submitted a response highlighting the ecological dimensions of GM insect technologies, and Professor Sue Hartley, BES President, gave oral evidence on our behalf.

Cultivation of GM crops

In the UK, the decision whether or not to permit the cultivation of GM crops is a devolved issue. Scotland and Wales have banned the cultivation of GM crops, whilst England has permitted their growth. Northern Ireland has banned the cultivation of GM crops, but this decision has been called in for review by the Office of the First Minister.

At our 2015 Annual Meeting, we held a public debate on GM crops, with speakers Pete Ritchie (Nourish Scotland), Helen Sang (Roslin Insitute), Joyce Tait (Innogen Institute), Rob Livesey (NFU Scotland) and Heather Ferguson (University of Glasgow). Chaired by Alan Gray (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology).

Government reports

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Report (2014-15):   Advanced genetic techniques for crop improvement: regulation, risk and precaution.

Read the Government’s response to this inquiry.