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University ecologist to discuss the impact of GM crops

Published: 
7 February 2003

University of Southampton ecologist, Dr Guy Poppy, will be speaking at a scientific discussion meeting on genetically modified crops, modern agriculture and the environment, at the Royal Society on Tuesday 11 February.

The event is being held to examine the scientific basis for arguments for and against GM technology and will contribute to the public debate on the commercialisation of GM crops in the UK. While there is optimism in some quarters that GM technology can play a role in reducing the damage done to the environment by modern agricultural practices, many people are concerned that GM crops will have unintended consequences on the surrounding environment.

Dr Poppy of the Biodiversity and Ecology Division in the University's School of Biological Sciences will be discussing the risks and benefits to non-target insect species of the use of GM crops.

"The use of recombinant DNA technology to engineer plants was proclaimed as a new era in pest control," says Dr Poppy. "However, bearing in mind that all new technologies carry risks, assessing the risks and comparing them to the benefits, will establish whether the technology will be successfully adopted or rejected. In any method of controlling insect pests, the impact on non-target species is a critical part of risk assessment."

Dr Poppy will be looking at methods of assessing both the direct and indirect effects of GM plants and linking cause with effect. He will also be discussing ways in which cost/benefit scenarios can be developed.

"To undertake this effectively we must address the central issues about what GM should be compared with and what risks are acceptable in relation to benefits," he says.

The Royal Society Discussion Meeting takes place at The Royal Society in London on Tuesday 11 February.

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The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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