Establishing a database of bio-ecological information on non-target arthropod species to support the environmental risk assessment of genetically modified crops in the EU

Biological control, non-target risk assessment, species selection, transgenic crops, genetically engineered crops
First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
13 September 2012
29 August 2012
External Scientific Report


To support environmental risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) crops in the European Union, this project provides a detailed overview of the arthropod fauna in arable crops across Europe. In a systematic literature search, relevant publications were identified concerning arthropods in European fields planted with maize, oilseed rape, potato, sugar/fodder beet, soybean, cotton, and rice, and in field margins. Species attributes and abundance data have been stored in a SQL-queryable database, which is available to all on the website of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This database, which is derived from over 1000 publications, provides ecological information for 3030 species and 14ˈ762 abundance records from 31 European countries. The crop with the largest number of identified species and the largest number of records is maize, followed by beet, potato, and oilseed rape. Records from arthropods collected in field margins adjacent to the selected crops are scarce. Arthropods in the database represent 278 families and 30 orders, with beetles (Coleoptera), aphids, bugs, and leafhoppers (Hemiptera), and spiders (Araneae) having the highest number of species and records. Predators (mainly ground beetles, rove beetles, and spiders) and herbivores constitute more than 80% of all species and records in the database, followed by decomposers, parasitoids, non-predatory aquatic species, and pollinators. Herbivores are more crop-specific than the other functional groups. Few data at the species level have been published for soil arthropods. Using eight hypothetical case studies, we demonstrate how the database can facilitate the identification of ecologically and agronomically relevant species for the assessment of potential adverse effects of GM crops on non-target arthropods. Regarding geographical zoning for European GM crop risk assessment, we propose the designation of four climatic zones. Finally, we suggest ways in which the database can be improved and maintained for future use.

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The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as authors. This task has been carried out exclusively by the authors in the context of a contract between the European Food Safety Authority and the authors, awarded following a tender procedure. The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It may not be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European Food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors. conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors.