Fields of sugar beet full of weeds and insects have for the first time challenged the idea that crops genetically-modified to resist weedkillers are bad for wildlife. The experiments suggest that the careful use of GM technology can encourage back the wildlife lost in conventional crop fields – without sacrificing farmers’ yields.

“It’s the first time someone’s taken herbicide-resistant crops and shown that they can have an environmental benefit,” says John Pidgeon of the Broom’s Barn Research Station (BBRS) in Suffolk, UK, where the groundbreaking work took place. The BBRS is mainly funded by the sugar beet industry, with this study partly financed by biotech company Monsanto.