Regulation of genetically engineered crops calls for ‘risk-based approach’

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. . .GE crops have been the most scrutinized foods in human history, despite a lack of scientific justification for such a burden. . . . removing unnecessary regulatory obstacles should be a high priority.

In this article, we describe a risk-based approach, building on that outlined originally by the National Research Council . . . and then later in the ‘Stanford Model’ for risk  assessment.

. . . .

We work through . . . examples. . . . All of these assessments are for North America, where . . . sunflower are natives.

. . . .

Herbicide-tolerant sunflower or rice:

  • Object of protection: diversity of wild sunflowers or rice.
  • Likelihood of hazard: high, based on amount of known gene flow.
  • Amount of harm: marginal—herbicide tolerance does not provide a selective advantage outside of agriculture.
  • Risk: low.

Note that the worst-case scenario in herbicide-tolerant sunflower or rice would be that the farmer would be unable to use the herbicide any longer; thus, this is an herbicide market-protection (efficacy) issue rather than an environmental concern. . . . .

Related article:  EPA weighs in on sulfoxaflor: Genetic Literacy Project Q&A on controversial decision to lift restrictions on alleged 'bee-killing' pesticide

Insect-resistant (Bt) sunflower:

  • Object of protection: wild sunflowers (and perhaps some endangered pollinator, should such an insect exist).
  • Likelihood of hazard: high—cultivated and wild sunflower . . . hybridize easily. . . . insect resistance could increase the competiveness or weediness of wild sunflower.
  • Amount of harm: unknown.
  • Risk: unknown.

In this case, risk assessment for Bt sunflower cannot be completed until certain knowledge gaps are addressed. . . .

. . .[M]ost GE sunflowers would be Category 2 (low risk) if proposed for planting in the vicinity of wild populations. However, the Bt sunflower described above could be placed in a higher risk group. . . unless either additional studies show that the insertion of a Bt gene does not confer a selective advantage . . . or effective confinement. . . mechanisms become available to mitigate the risk.

The full article is behind a paywall. Read it here: A risk-based approach to the regulation of genetically engineered organisms and supporting material here: Box 1: Four case studies

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