The worldwide commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops has raised concerns about potential adverse effects on the environment resulting from the use of these crops. Consequently, the risks of GM crops for the environment, and especially for biodiversity, have been extensively assessed before and during their commercial cultivation. Substantial scientific data on the environmental effects of the currently commercialized GM crops are available today. We have reviewed this scientific knowledge derived from the past 10 years of worldwide experimental field research and commercial cultivation. The review focuses on the currently commercially available GM crops that could be relevant for agriculture in Western and Central Europe (i.e., maize, oilseed rape, and soybean), and on the two main GM traits that are currently commercialized, herbicide tolerance (HT) and insect resistance (IR). The sources of information included peer-reviewed scientific journals, scientific books, reports from regions with extensive GM crop cultivation, as well as reports from international governmental organizations. The data available so far provide no scientific evidence that the cultivation of the presently commercialized GM crops has caused environmental harm. Nevertheless, a number of issues related to the interpretation of scientific data on effects of GM crops on the environment are debated controversially. The present review highlights these scientific debates and discusses the effects of GM crop cultivation on the environment considering the impacts caused by cultivation practices of modern agricultural systems.
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