• Open Access

The use of life-cycle assessment to evaluate the environmental impacts of growing genetically modified, nitrogen use-efficient canola


* Correspondence (fax 44 118 9352421; e-mail j.r.park@rdg.ac.uk)


Agriculture, particularly intensive crop production, makes a significant contribution to environmental pollution. A variety of canola (Brassica napus) has been genetically modified to enhance nitrogen use efficiency, effectively reducing the amount of fertilizer required for crop production. A partial life-cycle assessment adapted to crop production was used to assess the potential environmental impacts of growing genetically modified, nitrogen use-efficient (GMNUE) canola in North Dakota and Minnesota compared with a conventionally bred control variety. The analysis took into account the entire production system used to produce 1 tonne of canola. This comprised raw material extraction, processing and transportation, as well as all agricultural field operations. All emissions associated with the production of 1 tonne of canola were listed, aggregated and weighted in order to calculate the level of environmental impact. The findings show that there are a range of potential environmental benefits associated with growing GMNUE canola. These include reduced impacts on global warming, freshwater ecotoxicity, eutrophication and acidification. Given the large areas of canola grown in North America and, in particular, Canada, as well as the wide acceptance of genetically modified varieties in this area, there is the potential for GMNUE canola to reduce pollution from agriculture, with the largest reductions predicted to be in greenhouse gases and diffuse water pollution.