Transgenic Research

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 1055–1071 | Cite as

A semi-quantitative approach to GMO risk-benefit analysis

  • E. Jane MorrisEmail author
Original Paper


In many countries there are increasing calls for the benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be considered as well as the risks, and for a risk-benefit analysis to form an integral part of GMO regulatory frameworks. This trend represents a shift away from the strict emphasis on risks, which is encapsulated in the Precautionary Principle that forms the basis for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and which is reflected in the national legislation of many countries. The introduction of risk-benefit analysis of GMOs would be facilitated if clear methodologies were available to support the analysis. Up to now, methodologies for risk-benefit analysis that would be applicable to the introduction of GMOs have not been well defined. This paper describes a relatively simple semi-quantitative methodology that could be easily applied as a decision support tool, giving particular consideration to the needs of regulators in developing countries where there are limited resources and experience. The application of the methodology is demonstrated using the release of an insect resistant maize variety in South Africa as a case study. The applicability of the method in the South African regulatory system is also discussed, as an example of what might be involved in introducing changes into an existing regulatory process.


Genetically modified organisms Risk assessment Risk-benefit Regulation 



Genetically modified organism.


Cartagena protocol on biosafety


United Nations conference on environment and development


Precautionary principle


Bacillus thuringiensis


European food science authority


Rapid impact assessment matrix


Environmental impact assessment


Strategic environmental assessment


Risk-benefit score


Agriculture score


Food score


Environment score


Health score


Socio-economic score


Probability or likelihood


National environmental management biodiversity act



I wish to thank the following for their valuable comments and inputs into this paper: Dr E. Barros, Ms W. Janssen van Rijssen, Ms G. Christians, Ms C. Arendse, Ms W. Mandivenyi, Dr R. Westfall, Ms M. Koch. Ms M. Koch contributed the analysis of Ventria rice. I also wish to thank the reviewers of the original manuscript for their insightful contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.African Centre for Gene TechnologiesLynnwood RidgeSouth Africa

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