Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ESA calls for interdisciplinary studies of GEOs

03.03.2004


From corn to carp to the bacteria in yogurt, people have modified organisms for specific traits for centuries. Today, genetic engineering offers the potential to provide new benefits and new risks, as does any new technology. The Ecological Society of America (ESA)’s scientific position paper, "Genetically engineered organisms and the environment: Current status and recommendations," authored by an ESA committee of experts, addresses the nature of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) and their possible impacts on ecosystems (Viewable at: http://www.esa.org/pao/esaPositions/Papers/geo_position.htm).



Potential environmental benefits from certain GEOs include more sustainable agriculture and better environmental management. For example, some GE crops can be grown with fewer pesticides and less soil erosion, while future GE trees might provide cleaner methods of paper milling. Future applications of genetic engineering extend far beyond traditional breeding, encompassing transgenic viruses, bacteria, algae, fungi, grasses, trees, insects, fish, shellfish and many other non-domesticated species. Unintended effects of GEOs released into the environment remain a concern for ecologists, regulatory agencies and the public.

"Understanding how genetic engineering will affect organisms living and dispersing outdoors is a major challenge," said ESA President William Schlesinger. "This position paper provides insight into the ecological questions that should be considered before genetically engineered organisms are released, as well as important recommendations for monitoring and evaluating GEOs once they are in the field."


Major recommendations of the ESA position paper include:
  • GEOs should be designed to reduce environmental risks by incorporating specific genetic features, such as traits that limit unwanted gene flow between GE organisms and non-GE organisms.
  • Rigorous, interdisciplinary scientific studies are needed to evaluate environmental benefits and risks posed by GEOs.
  • Possible risks is inadequate or suggests the potential for serious negative effects on ecosystems.
  • Well-designed monitoring will be crucial to identify, manage, and mitigate environmental risks when there are reasons to suspect possible problems.
  • Science-based regulation should subject all transgenic organisms to a similar risk-assessment framework, recognize that many environmental risks are specific to the GEO and location, and incorporate a cautious approach to environmental risk analysis.
  • Ecologists, agricultural scientists, molecular biologists and others need broader training and integrated communication to better address these issues.

While the ESA position paper recognizes the possible benefits GEOs may offer, it addresses several areas of concern. One worry involves the unintended escape of transgenic salmon into wild populations. Current findings show contradictory results of transgenic salmon’s faster development and eating habits: these fish might out-compete the natural populations, or their traits "could increase their susceptibility to predation and stressful environments," according to the paper.

"Another concern is that GEOs will interbreed with native populations once released," said Allison Snow, lead author of the position paper and a professor at Ohio State University. "It is important to understand how an influx of transgenes can affect local populations, such as weedy relatives of crop plants. Also, new types of engineered microbes, insects, fish and horticultural plants are likely to require more ecological study than most domesticated food crops."

"Several environmental risks associated with gene flow, the evolution of resistance, and certain non-target effects could be irreversible," Snow said. "Additional research is needed to evaluate circumstances under which this could happen."

These conclusions and recommendations echo earlier sentiments expressed by the Society’s 1989 position paper, "The planned introduction of genetically engineered organisms: Ecological considerations and recommendations." In addition to incorporating the new knowledge gained in the past 15 years, this latest ESA paper also discusses options for monitoring the long-term environmental effects of GEOs that have been released widely into the environment.



Co-authors of the report are Allison Snow, David Andow (University of Minnesota), Paul Gepts (University of California, Davis), Eric Hallerman (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), Alison Power (Cornell University), James Tiedje (Michigan State University), and LaReesa Wolfenbarger (University of Nebraska at Omaha).

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is a scientific, non-profit, 8,000-member organization founded in 1915. Through ESA reports, journals, membership research, and expert testimony to Congress, ESA seeks to promote the responsible application of ecological data and principles to the solution of environmental problems. ESA publishes four scientific, peer-reviewed journals: Ecology, Ecological Applications, Ecological Monographs, and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Annie Drinkard | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.org/pao/esaPositions/Papers/geo_position.htm
http://www.esa.org

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht OU study expands understanding of bacterial communities for wastewater treatment system
14.05.2019 | University of Oklahoma

nachricht How do muscle and tendon connections last a lifetime? Study in the fruit fly Drosophila
04.04.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Summit charts a course to uncover the origins of genetic diseases

22.05.2019 | Life Sciences

New study finds distinct microbes living next to corals

22.05.2019 | Life Sciences

Stellar waltz with dramatic ending

22.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>