The development and use of genetically modified plants (GMPs) has been a topic of considerable public debate in recent years. GMPs hold great promise for improving agricultural output, but the potential for unwanted effects of GMP use is still not fully understood. The majority of studies addressing potential risks of GMP cultivation have addressed only aboveground effects. However, recent methodological advances in soil microbial ecology have allowed research focus to move underground to try to gain knowledge of GMP-driven effects on the microbial communities and processes in soil that are essential to key terrestrial ecosystem functions. This review gives an overview of the research performed to date on this timely topic, highlighting a number of case studies. Although such research has advanced our understanding of this topic, a number of knowledge gaps still prevent full interpretation of results, as highlighted by the failure of most studies to assign a definitively negative, positive or neutral effect to GMP introduction. Based upon our accumulating, yet incomplete, understanding of soil microbes and processes, we propose a synthesis for the case-by-case study of GMP effects, incorporating assessment of the potential plant/ecosystem interactions, accessible and relevant indicators, and tests for unforeseen effects
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Journal publication date2003

ID: 149184