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Environmental Research

Environmental impacts of genetically modified plants: A review

Aristidis M. Tsatsakis, Muhammad Amjad Nawaz, Demetrios Kouretas, Georgios Balias, Kai Savolainen, Victor A. Tutelyan, Kirill S. Golokhvast, Jeong Dong Lee, Seung Hwan Yang

Department of Toxicology and Forensics, School of Medicine, University of Crete, Heraklion, Crete, Greece.


Powerful scientific techniques have caused dramatic expansion of genetically modified crops leading to altered agricultural practices posing direct and indirect environmental implications. Despite the enhanced yield potential, risks and biosafety concerns associated with such GM crops are the fundamental issues to be addressed. An increasing interest can be noted among the researchers and policy makers in exploring unintended effects of transgenes associated with gene flow, flow of naked DNA, weediness and chemical toxicity. The current state of knowledge reveals that GM crops impart damaging impacts on the environment such as modification in crop pervasiveness or invasiveness, the emergence of herbicide and insecticide tolerance, transgene stacking and disturbed biodiversity, but these impacts require a more in-depth view and critical research so as to unveil further facts. Most of the reviewed scientific resources provide similar conclusions and currently there is an insufficient amount of data available and up until today, the consumption of GM plant products are safe for consumption to a greater extent with few exceptions. This paper updates the undesirable impacts of GM crops and their products on target and non-target species and attempts to shed light on the emerging challenges and threats associated with it. Underpinning research also realizes the influence of GM crops on a disturbance in biodiversity, development of resistance and evolution slightly resembles with the effects of non-GM cultivation. Future prospects are also discussed.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: GM plants; Environmental risks; Gene flow; Transgenes; Weediness; Toxicity.

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