Environmental and human health impacts of growing genetically modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet: a life-cycle assessment
Bennett, R., Phipps, R., Strange, A. and Grey, P. (2004) Environmental and human health impacts of growing genetically modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet: a life-cycle assessment. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 2 (4). pp. 273-278. ISSN 1467-7644
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2004.00076.x
There is ongoing debate concerning the possible environmental and human health impacts of growing genetically modified (GM) crops. Here, we report the results of a life-cycle assessment (LCA) comparing the environmental and human health impacts of conventional sugar beet growing regimes in the UK and Germany with those that might be expected if GM herbicide-tolerant (to glyphosate) sugar beet is commercialized. The results presented for a number of environmental and human health impact categories suggest that growing the GM herbicide-tolerant crop would be less harmful to the environment and human health than growing the conventional crop, largely due to lower emissions from herbicide manufacture, transport and field operations. Emissions contributing to negative environmental impacts, such as global warming, ozone depletion, ecotoxicity of water and acidification and nutrification of soil and water, were much lower for the herbicide-tolerant crop than for the conventional crop. Emissions contributing to summer smog, toxic particulate matter and carcinogenicity, which have negative human health impacts, were also substantially lower for the herbicide-tolerant crop. The environmental and human health impacts of growing GM crops need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis using a holistic approach. LCA is a valuable technique for helping to undertake such assessments.