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 Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>