Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are now routinely used to assess both the benefits and risks of medical treatments and drugs. The application of meta-analyses in the medical world is more straightforward than in the environmental arena because appropriate control treatments and measures of impact are more easily agreed on in medicine. Nonetheless, meta-analysis has great potential not only to inform specific regulatory decisions in the arena of plant biotechnology, but also to inform general risk management policy. Within the realm of genetically modified (GM) crops, meta-analyses provide quantitative syntheses of the benefits, risks, and information gaps of these emerging technologies. In this context, several published meta-analyses have examined the risks of insect resistant crops to nontarget organisms and the risk of outcrossing due to gene flow from GM crops. The three most critical challenges when applying meta-analysis to plant biotechnology risk analysis are: (1) identifying the appropriate comparison—risk compared to whatbaseline?; (2) using the meta-analysis to help identify the best levers for risk management; and (3) using the meta-analysis to estimate the probability of rare, larger magnitude hazards that are unlikely to occur during short duration studies. Meta-analysis is an important tool for risk analysis and risk management because patterns that might never be captured in individual studies can emerge from the aggregate collection.
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Conflict of interest
The author M. Marvier declares that the research was not sponsored and that she has no conflict of interest.
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