How Governmental Regulation Can Help or Hinder the Integration of Bt Crops within IPM Programs
Regulatory risk assessments are an important part of the introduction of insect-resistant genetically modified (GM) crops (e.g., Bacillus thuringiensis [Bt] crops) into the environment to ensure the safe use of such products. In doing so, the regulatory assessment process can be clearly beneficial to integrated pest management (IPM) programs. In general, the regulatory framework for insect-resistant GM crops includes an assessment of the following: effects of the insecticidal trait on non-target organisms, other potential adverse environmental impacts, evolution of resistance to target pests, and environmental and agronomic benefits of the insecticidal trait. Each country’s regulatory system is dependent on the overall environmental risk management goals, relevant and available risk information, scientific capacity, and the available financial resources. A number of regulatory activities can help to ensure that new products such as Bt crops fit well within IPM programs: (1) evaluation of the environmental safety of new products, and their ability to enhance IPM; (2) encouragement of the adoption of new technologies with improved environmental safety profiles; (3) adoption of an expedited regulatory review system; and (4) encouragement and appropriate oversight of sustainable use of such products. Governmental regulation of insect-resistant GM crops can also hinder IPM programs by creating significant barriers to the adoption of such technologies. Such barriers include: (1) absence of functioning regulatory systems in many developing countries; (2) meeting the obligations and understanding the various interpretations of international treaties, e.g., Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety; (3) lack of public sector research to generate data supporting the safety of these crops; and (4) regulatory costs involved in the development and commercialization of novel products for small market sectors. Ways in which regulatory data requirements can be globally harmonized need to be considered to decrease the regulatory barriers for insect-resistant GM crops and comparable technologies. International organizations can play a key role in rationalizing regulatory systems; however, public sector research will also be needed to make sure that the risk assessment process is scientifically sound and transparent.
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