Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pew report finds GM insects may offer benefits, but clear regulatory oversight is lacking

23.01.2004


Lack of regulatory plan could slow scientific advancement and deter public confidence



Researchers are using biotechnology to develop genetically modified (GM) insects for a wide variety of purposes, including fighting insect-borne diseases like malaria and controlling destructive insect agricultural pests, but the federal government lacks a clear regulatory framework for reviewing environmental safety and other issues associated with GM insects, according to Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects, a new report released today by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology.

The report provides an overview of current research efforts to apply genetic engineering technology to insects, and looks at the benefits, risks and scientific uncertainties associated with transgenic insects. After examining the strengths and weaknesses of the legal authorities EPA, FDA and USDA could use to conduct a regulatory review, the report finds the major concern regarding regulation is the absence of a clear articulation of how transgenic insects will be regulated. While a number of laws could potentially apply to GM insects, federal regulators have not indicated if they would regulate GM insects, how a regulatory review would be conducted, which agencies would be involved, or how those agencies would coordinate.


"Although it may be several years before scientists are ready to conduct a wide scale release of transgenic insects, the research threatens to outpace regulatory preparedness," said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. "The benefits of GM insects could be significant, but the federal government needs to move quickly to clarify how it will provide an adequate review of these insects and the many questions they raise regarding the environment, public health, agriculture and food safety."

Scientists are currently working to genetically modify insects to address important economic and human health concerns. If successful, GM insects could dramatically improve public health and enhance agricultural production. Examples include:


Mosquitoes incapable of transmitting malaria, which is contracted by 300 - 500 million people annually and kills between one and three million people worldwide each year.

Honeybees genetically engineered so they are resistant to diseases and parasites, which have devastated the honeybee population in the last decade.

Silkworms made to produce pharmaceutical and industrial proteins, like those used to create a particularly strong spider silk that could be used to make bulletproof vests, parachutes, and artificial ligaments.

Kissing bugs unable to transmit Chagas’ disease, which currently infects 16 - 18 million people annually and kills nearly 50,000 people worldwide each year.
However, there is uncertainty about the lasting effects these insects could have on ecosystems, public health and food safety once released. For instance, the success of some GM insects is contingent on the ability of fertile GM insects to replace wild insect populations and become established in the environment. Release of fertile GM insects increases the potential that transgenic traits could spread throughout the insect population, potentially making pre-existing pest problems worse or creating altogether new challenges. It is also possible that GM insects released to control the spread of disease could actually have the unintended consequence of enabling an insect to more effectively spread disease or even carry a human disease it was never before able to transmit. Lastly, there is the possibility that modifying the genetic composition of honeybees could alter the composition of the honey they produce, potentially creating a food safety concern. All of these uncertainties will need to be addressed by regulators prior to the introduction and release of GM insects.

The federal government currently has no comprehensive policy on how transgenic insects will be reviewed. Under existing laws, at least three different agencies – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) – could have some authority over certain kinds of GM insects. But only USDA has issued regulations that cover any type of GM insect (USDA requires regulatory approval of any field trials of GM insects that are potential plant pests.) No single agency appears to have authority to consider all of the issues raised by the many different types of GM insects being developed, and agencies have not indicated how, or if, they intend to coordinate their respective authorities to provide a comprehensive framework for regulation. Without clarification about how transgenic insects will be regulated, it is difficult to determine if the unique issues raised by transgenic insects will be addressed in a manner that inspires public confidence and provides the scientific community with adequate guidance.

The absence of regulatory clarity regarding domestic GM insect activity has broader implications. The mobility and range of insects pose international regulatory challenges never faced with GM crops, and much of the public health research underway seeks to address insect-borne diseases most prevalent outside the U.S, meaning international regulatory bodies will likely be engaged before any insects are released. Because U.S. regulatory policies will be an important building block in the development of international policies regarding GM insects, domestic stagnation impedes development on an international level.

"Clarity from U.S. regulators would benefit both the scientific community and the public at large," concluded Rodemeyer. "Without a clear and transparent roadmap for regulation, it is difficult for scientists to know how to proceed with research efforts and the public has little reason to trust that the risks and benefits are being appropriately weighed and measured."


Contact:

Dan DiFonzo
202-347-9044 x 231
dandifonzo@pewagbiotech.org

Kim Brooks
202-347-9044 x 230
kbrooks@pewagbiotech.org

Dan DiFonzo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://pewagbiotech.org/research/bugs.
http://www.pewagbiotech.org/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos

30.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Pinball at the atomic level

30.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Organic-inorganic heterostructures with programmable electronic properties

30.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>