• GM Crop Cultivation in Ireland: Ecological and Economic Considerations

      Meade, Connor; Mullins, Ewen; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (Phase 1) (Royal Irish Academy, 31/03/2005)
      Like many states in the European Union, Ireland has yet to fully commit itself to geneticallymodified (GM) crop technology. The general position of the Irish Government is ‘positive but precautionary’. However, with the European‐wide de‐facto moratorium on commercial production of GM crops now ended, many strategically important decisions regarding the commercial deployment of such crops and their co‐existence with conventional/organic crops need to be considered. To date, little research on the environmental impact of GM crops has been carried out in Ireland, and the provision of relevant local information lags far behind that available in other countries in the European Union. In this paper, we discuss much of the new ecological and economic data that have emerged since the moratorium on GM crops was introduced in 1998, assess the likely impacts of pest‐oriented GM crops should they be introduced to Ireland and examine criteria for post‐release monitoring. We also describe the likely commercial demand for these crops and the consequent priorities for ecological research. We argue that the impact of GM technology needs to be assessed in relation to the environmental impact of modern agriculture as a whole. Public unease in relation to this technology may be addressed if adequate resources are made available for independent Irish research on the issue.
    • An insight into the impact of arable farming on Irish biodiversity: A scarcity of studies hinders a rigorous assessment

      O'Brien, Martin; Spillane, Charles; Meade, Connor; Mullins, Ewen; Environmental Protection Agency; 2006-B-MS-46 (Royal Irish Academy, 27/08/2008)
      To help understand and counteract future agronomic challenges to farmland biodiversity, it is essential to know how present farming practices have affected biodiversity on Irish farms. We present an overview of existing research data and conclusions, describing the impact of crop cultivation on biodiversity on Irish arable farms. An extensive literature review clearly indicates that peer-reviewed publications on research conducted in Ireland on this topic are quite scarce: just 21 papers investigating the effect of conventional crop cultivation on Irish biodiversity have been published within the past 30 years. Principally, these studies have concluded that conventional crop cultivation has had an adverse impact on biodiversity on Irish farms, with 15 of the 21 studies demonstrating negative trends for the taxa investigated. Compared to other EU states, the relative dearth of baseline data and absence of monitoring programmes designed to assess the specific impacts of crop cultivation on Irish biodiversity highlight the need to develop long-term research studies. With many new challenges facing Irish agriculture, a research programme must be initiated to measure current levels of biodiversity on arable land and to assess the main farming ‘pressures’ causing significant biodiversity loss or gains in these systems.
    • Potential for gene-flow from cultivated Irish grasses and cereals

      Mullins, Ewen; Ryan, Eimear; Meade, Connor (Teagasc, 01/08/2009)
      The importance of gene movement from cultivated plants has been highlighted in regard to minimising the movement of seed and/or pollen between GM and non-GM crops (i.e. gene flow). Although ryegrass covers in excess of 90% of Ireland’s agricultural area, very little is known about gene flow from ryegrass populations from an Irish context. The goal of this project was to address this lack of data by measuring the degree of pollen-mediated gene-flow between two Lolium spp. in a field environment. Ryegrass (esp. Lolium perenne) was selected because as the dominant pasture grass it is critical for the livestock industry as well as being a current target for novel improvements. The results from this research indicate that the potential for pollen-mediated gene flow from perennial ryegrass decreases exponentially with increased distance from the pollen source, with hybridisation events recorded out at 192m. In parallel to this research, a separate study was conducted to assess the degree of genetic diversity within feral and wild Lolium spp across Ireland and also within the important crop weed Avena fatua (‘wild oats’); thereby providing an insight into the degree of historic gene flow that has occurred within each species and in regard to the latter, identifying the potential for non-native A. fatua to colonise the Irish agrienvironment.