, Volume 71, Issue 5, pp 598-607
Date: 26 Apr 2006

Genetically modified crops: success, safety assessment, and public concern

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With the emergence of transgenic technologies, new ways to improve the agronomic performance of crops for food, feed, and processing applications have been devised. In addition, ability to express foreign genes using transgenic technologies has opened up options for producing large quantities of commercially important industrial or pharmaceutical products in plants. Despite this high adoption rate and future promises, there is a multitude of concerns about the impact of genetically modified (GM) crops on the environment. Potential contamination of the environment and food chains has prompted detailed consideration of how such crops and the molecules that they produce can be effectively isolated and contained. One of the reasonable steps after creating a transgenic plant is to evaluate its potential benefits and risks to the environment and these should be compared to those generated by traditional agricultural practices. The precautionary approach in risk management of GM plants may make it necessary to monitor significant wild and weed populations that might be affected by transgene escape. Effective risk assessment and monitoring mechanisms are the basic prerequisites of any legal framework to adequately address the risks and watch out for new risks. Several agencies in different countries monitor the release of GM organisms or frame guidelines for the appropriate application of recombinant organisms in agro-industries so as to assure the safe use of recombinant organisms and to achieve sound overall development. We feel that it is important to establish an internationally harmonized framework for the safe handling of recombinant DNA organisms within a few years.

This is IMTECH Communication No. 038/2005.