Genetically-modified (GM) plants are now widely cultivated throughout North and South America, as well as to a lesser extent in Asia. In Europe, only a few thousand hectares of Bt maize are currently being grown, mostly in Spain. Over the last ten years, European regulatory provisions reinforced the prior evaluation of GM crops, set up rules concerning traceability and labeling, and imposed post-marketing monitoring. In turn, the European Commission established the principle of coexistence which refers to “the ability of farmers to make a practical choice between conventional, organic and GM-crop production, in compliance with the legal obligations for labelling and/or purity standards” and laid down guidelines defining the context of this coexistence. (Commission recommendation of 23 July 2003, http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/ publi/reports/coexistence2/guide_en.pdf).
What needs to be accounted for if we are to introduce in a sustainable manner GM crops throughout Europe so that coexistence is feasible? The cross-disciplinary European SIGMEA Research Project was set up to provide to decision-makers science-based information about the appropriate coexistence and traceability measures that would be needed.
The structure of the SIGMEA project was based on its major objectives which were to collate existing and ongoing results on gene flow and ecological impacts and to generate gene flow models at the landscape level in order to set up a science-based framework, methods and tools for assessing ecological and economic impacts of GM crops as well as for effectively managing their development within European farming systems.
Special attention has been paid to coexistence and seven regional case studies were carried out for designing and assessing scenarios for coexistence.
Writing: A. Messéan (INRA)
Creation date: 10 January 2007
Update: 06 May 2009