GM and Ag Technology Publications
Landscape-scale distribution and persistence of genetically modified oilseed rape ( Brassica napus ) in Manitoba, Canada
By Alexis L. Knispel & Stéphane M. McLachlan
Genetically modified herbicide-tolerant (GMHT) oilseed rape (OSR; Brassica napus L.) was approved for commercial cultivation in Canada in 1995 and currently represents over 95% of the OSR grown in western Canada. After a decade of widespread cultivation, GMHT volunteers represent an increasing management problem in cultivated fields and are ubiquitous in adjacent ruderal habitats, where they contribute to the spread of transgenes. However, few studies have considered escaped GMHT OSR populations in North America, and even fewer have been conducted at large spatial scales (i.e. landscape scales). In particular, the contribution of landscape structure and large-scale anthropogenic dispersal processes to the persistence and spread of escaped GMHT OSR remains poorly understood. We conducted a multi-year survey of the landscape-scale distribution of escaped OSR plants adjacent to roads and cultivated fields. Our objective was to examine the long-term dynamics of escaped OSR at large spatial scales and to assess the relative importance of landscape and localised factors to the persistence and spread of these plants outside of cultivation. From 2005 to 2007, we surveyed escaped OSR plants along roadsides and field edges at 12 locations in three agricultural landscapes in southern Manitoba where GMHT OSR is widely grown. Data were analysed to examine temporal changes at large spatial scales and to determine factors affecting the distribution of escaped OSR plants in roadside and field edge habitats within agricultural landscapes. Additionally, we assessed the potential for seed dispersal between escaped populations by comparing the relative spatial distribution of roadside and field edge OSR. Densities of escaped OSR fluctuated over space and time in both roadside and field edge habitats, though the proportion of GMHT plants was high (93-100%). Escaped OSR was positively affected by agricultural landscape (indicative of cropping intensity) and by the presence of an adjacent field planted to OSR. Within roadside habitats, escaped OSR was also strongly associated with large-scale variables, including road surface (indicative of traffic intensity) and distance to the nearest grain elevator. Conversely, within field edges, OSR density was affected by localised crop management practices such as mowing, soil disturbance and herbicide application. Despite the proximity of roadsides and field edges, there was little evidence of spatial aggregation among escaped OSR populations in these two habitats, especially at very fine spatial scales (i.e. <100 m), suggesting that natural propagule exchange is infrequent. Escaped OSR populations were persistent at large spatial and temporal scales, and low density in a given landscape or year was not indicative of overall extinction. As a result of ongoing cultivation and transport of OSR crops, escaped GMHT traits will likely remain predominant in agricultural landscapes. While escaped OSR in field edge habitats generally results from local seeding and management activities occurring at the field-scale, distribution patterns within roadside habitats are determined in large part by seed transport occurring at the landscape scale and at even larger regional scales. Our findings suggest that these large-scale anthropogenic dispersal processes are sufficient to enable persistence despite limited natural seed dispersal. This widespread dispersal is likely to undermine field-scale management practices aimed at eliminating escaped and in-field GMHT OSR populations. Agricultural transport and landscape-scale cropping patterns are important determinants of the distribution of escaped GM crops. At the regional level, these factors ensure ongoing establishment and spread of escaped GMHT OSR despite limited local seed dispersal. Escaped populations thus play an important role in the spread of transgenes and have substantial implications for the coexistence of GM and non-GM production systems. Given the large-scale factors driving the spread of escaped transgenes, localised co-existence measures may be impracticable where they are not commensurate with regional dispersal mechanisms. To be effective, strategies aimed at reducing contamination from GM crops should be multi-scale in approach and be developed and implemented at both farm and landscape levels of organisation. Multiple stakeholders should thus be consulted, including both GM and non-GM farmers, as well as seed developers, processors, transporters and suppliers. Decisions to adopt GM crops require thoughtful and inclusive consideration of the risks and responsibilities inherent in this new technology.
Farmer Knowledge and Risk Analysis: Postrelease Evaluation of Herbicide-Tolerant Canola in Western Canada
By Ian J. Mauro & Stephane M. McLachlań
The global controversy regarding the use of genetically modified (GM) crops has proved to be a challenge for “science-based” risk assessments. Although risk analysis incorporates societal perspectives in decision making over these crops, it is largely predicated on contrasts between “expert” and “lay” perspectives. The overall objective of this study is to explore the role for farmers’ knowledge, and their decade-long experience with herbicide-tolerant (HT) canola, in the risk analysis of GM crops. From 2002 to 2003, data were collected using interviews (n = 15) and mail surveys (n = 370) with farmers from Manitoba and across Canada. The main benefits associated with HT canola were management oriented and included easier weed control, herbicide rotation, and better weed control, whereas the main risks were more diverse and included market harm, technology use agreements (TUAs), and increased seed costs. Benefits and risks were inversely related, and the salient factor influencing risk was farmer experiences with HT canola volunteers, followed by small farm size and duration using HT canola. These HT volunteers were reported by 38% of farmers, from both internal (e.g., seedbank, farm machinery, etc.) and external (e.g., wind, seed contamination, etc.) sources, and were found to persist over time. Farmer knowledge is a reliable and rich source of information regarding the efficacy of HT crops, demonstrating that individual experiences are important to risk perception. The socioeconomic nature of most risks combined with the continuing “farm income crisis” in North America demonstrates the need for a more holistic and inclusive approach to risk assessment associated with HT crops and, indeed, with all new agricultural technology.
Farmer knowledge and a priori risk analysis: pre-releaseevaluation of genetically modified Roundup Ready wheatacross the Canadian prairies
By Ian J. Mauro & Stephane M. McLachlań
The controversy over the world’s first genetically modified (GM) wheat, Roundup Ready wheat (RRW), challenged the efficacy of ‘science-based’ risk assessment, largely because it excluded the public, particularly farmers, from meaningful input. Risk analysis, in contrast, is broader in orientation as it incorporates scientific data as well as socioeconomic, ethical, and legal concerns, and considers expert and lay input in decision-making. Local knowledge (LK) of farmers is experience-based and represents a rich and reliable source of information regarding the impacts associated with agricultural technology, thereby complementing the scientific data normally used in risk assessment. The overall goal of this study was to explore the role of farmer LK in the a priori risk analysis of RRW.