FEDERAL PANEL REVIEWS OPTIONS FOR CONFINING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ORGANISMS
A National Research Council committee charged with evaluating current methods of confining the unwanted and unintentional spread of certain types of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) has concluded that no known methods of biological confinement are likely to be 100 percent effective. However, the committee also concluded that using multiple methods together could provide near-100 percent effectiveness.
The results of the two-year project were released today (1/20) in a report called "Biological Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms."
"Future GEOs might include drug-producing crop plants, faster-growing fish and bacteria that can clean up pollutants," said Allison Snow, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State and also a member of the NRC committee. "We need to have effective methods to keep such organisms from breeding with their natural, wild relatives and for keeping new drugs out of food plants."
Snow and her NRC panel colleagues assessed a variety of biological and physical methods used for confining transgenic plants, fish, insects and microbes that may be developed in the future.
"Current GEOs that have been approved for commercial release aren't intended for confinement," she said. "They should be perfectly safe, even though a few may cause problems here and there. Likewise, few GEOs of the future are likely to need confinement. If any do, we need to be very careful about relying on sterility and other types of biological confinement.
"As usual, much more research is needed to know whether biological confinement can be used widely. It's too early to know what is possible, but we hope our report can guide future research."